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Coronavirus latest: UK phase 2 vaccine trial shows promise

July 20, 2020

The potential vaccine prompted a protective immune response in hundreds of people who participated in the early trial. EU leaders remain deadlocked on pandemic recovery talks. Follow DW for the latest.

In this handout photo released by the University of Oxford blood samples from coronavirus vaccine trials are handled inside the Jenner Institute in Oxford, England Thursday June 25, 2020
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/A. Grant
  • Oxford scientists say there could be enough data by the end of 2020 to decide if their vaccine can be adopted 
  • Marathon EU talks on a pandemic recovery fund have entered the fourth day with no deal in sight 
  • More than 600,000 people have died worldwide from the coronavirus, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University 
  • China's Xinjiang province declares a "wartime situation" while Hong Kong's leader says the outbreak there is "critical" 

All updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT)

23:45  We have now closed this live updates article. For the latest developments, see here: Coronavirus latest: Brazil death toll tops 80,000

22:28 Brazil's coronavirus death toll has surged past the 80,000-mark after 632 newly-recorded deaths in the past 24 hours. The country's Health Ministry also confirmed 20,257 new infections.

Brazil is the world's second-worst affected nation after the US, with over 2 million cases. 

Meanwhile, two more ministers in the Cabinet of President Jair Bolsonaro have tested positive for the virus. Onyx Lorenzoni, the minister of citizenship and Milton Ribeiro, the education minister, both announced their test results on Twitter.

Ribeiro is the fifth high-ranking government official to have been infected so far, besides the president.

22:03 The Bahamas is banning travelers from the United States in response to a surge in coronavirus cases three weeks after the island reopened to international tourism. 

The travel ban, which will come into effect on Wednesday, also extends to Latin America. Only flights from the UK, Canada, and the European Union will be allowed to land in the Bahamas, Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said.

The island, a popular international tourist destination, shut its borders on April 6 to control the spread of the virus. Since reopening on July 1, it has confirmed 49 new cases, taking the total infections in the country to 153. It has recorded 11 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Read moreCoronavirus in Mallorca: The party's over for tourists amid new lockdown

21:51 US President Donald Trump has posted a photo of himself wearing a mask on Twitter and said it was patriotic to wear one.

"Many people say that it is Patriotic to wear a face mask when you can't socially distance. There is nobody more Patriotic than me, your favorite President," he tweeted. 

Trump had for months refused to wear a mask or encourage it as a way to combat the coronavirus. He had even mocked masks as symbols of weakness during a pandemic that he has repeatedly suggested is overblown.

Opinion polls show Americans increasingly disapprove of the way the president has handled the outbreak, with virus cases continuing to surge. 

19:30 The WHO head of emergencies Michael Ryan said the positive results of COVID-19 vaccine trials were ''good news'' but cautioned that there is still ''a long way to go.'' 

''We now need to move into larger-scale real-world trials,'' Ryan told reporters at a news conference in Geneva. ''But it is good to see more data and more products moving into this very important phase of vaccine discovery.'' 

Ryan's remarks came as scientists at Oxford University said their experimental vaccine had been shown to trigger a protective immune response in hundreds of people that were part of the phase two trial. 

On the same day, Chinese researchers published a study on their experimental vaccine, using a similar technique as the Oxford team, that also triggered an immune response. 

17:55 A Russian mayor resigned on Monday in protest, after accusing regional officials of under-reporting coronavirus figures

Mayor Rinat Akhmetchin had sent a letter last week to officials at the regional health ministry accusing them of "concealing real information about the numbers of those ill from federal agencies," Siberian news media reported. 

Akhmetchin said there had been 832 confirmed cases in his city of Norilsk, located 300 kilometers (186 miles) north of the Arctic Circle, while the regional health ministry provided a figure of 293. 

Akhmetchin said that he resigned after being blamed by regional officials for failings on handling the epidemic. 

"I didn't lie and I never wanted to lie, all the information I gave came from official sources," said the 55-year-old who had been mayor of Norilsk since 2017. 

Akhmetchin's resignation comes as Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday boasted that the virus situation was improving across the country, with numbers of cases and deaths far lower than in many European countries. Russia's roughly 775,000 cases is more than double the tallies of any individual European countries. However, the UK, Italy, France and Spain have all logged considerably more deaths than Russia.

17:25 Croatia's football federation is closing its stadiums again for the last matches of the season, after more than a month of allowing smaller-than-usual crowds to attend games. The response follows an increase in infections.

Crotain sports were among the first to bring fans back into play, including at top-tier football games and a tennis tournament in Zadar organized by Novak Djokovic, which was criticized for lax social distancing measures. 
The football federation said a ''significant increase'' in the number of confirmed coronavirus infections forced them to bar spectators for the last round of league fixtures on Saturday, and for the national cup final on August 1.

Croatia, a nation of 4 million people, has 4,370 confirmed coronavirus cases and 122 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University figures.

14:45 Preliminary results from tests of an experimental coronavirus vaccine in the UK suggest that it prompts a protective immune response, scientists from the University of Oxford said. The observations on the Astra Zeneca product were published in the scientific journal The Lancet

The experimental COVID-19 vaccine produced a dual immune response in people aged 18 to 55 that lasted at least two months after they were immunized, scientists said. 

''We are seeing good immune response in almost everybody,'' said Dr. Adrian Hill, director of the Jenner Institute at the University of Oxford. ''What this vaccine does particularly well is trigger both arms of the immune system,'' he added. 

In this handout photo released by the University of Oxford Dr. Adrian Hill, Director of the Jenner Institute at Oxford University, poses for a photo in Oxford, England on Thursday June 25, 2020.
The study involving Dr. Adrian Hill is one of several fast-tracked bids to explore the efficacy of potential vaccinesImage: picture-alliance/AP Photo/J. Cairns

Scientists said the vaccine also caused a reaction in the body's T-cells which help to fight off the coronavirus. 

''There's increasing evidence that having a T-cell response as well as antibodies could be very important in controlling COVID-19,'' Hill said and suggested that the immune response might be boosted after a second dose. 

But it also caused some minor side effects, such as fever, chills and muscle pain more often than in those who were instead given a control meningitis vaccine. 

British researchers first began testing the vaccine in April in some 1,000 people, half of whom got the experimental vaccine, while the others got the meningitis vaccine.  The results are part of the second phase of the clinical development process. The vaccine will now need to undergo a phase three, where it will be administered to thousands of people and tested for efficacy and safety. A fourth phase, once it has been approved and licensed, usually involves further ongoing studies and monitoring.

Hill estimated that there could be sufficient data by the end of the year to decide if the vaccine should be adopted for mass vaccination campaigns. 

''There was a hope that if we had a vaccine quickly enough, we could put out the pandemic,'' Hill said, noting the continuing surge of infections globally. ''I think it's going to be very difficult to control this pandemic without a vaccine.'' 

Several countries including Germany, France, the Netherlands, Italy, U.S. and the U.K. have all signed deals to receive hundreds of millions of doses of the vaccine. 

13:20 Russia is trialing an express testing system at the country's busiest airport in Moscow. 

The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) and Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport said the tests would be given a trial run on domestic passengers at Terminal B. 

The portable testing kit, which fits in two small suitcases, was also used at Russia's belated military parade marking the end of World War II in Europe, held on June 24 this year. 

"If you're at an airport and you need to be tested for three hours, this is not a workable solution," the RDIF's Kirill Dmitriev told news agency Reuters, adding that this scheme would aim to provide results "within an hour."

12:15 The chairman of Kenya's COVID-19 Senate committee has flouted an overnight ban on drinking in bars that he imposed

"I will bear responsibility ... I apologize to Kenyans and I will face the full consequences of the law," Johnson Sakaja, who represents Nairobi county and is a close ally of President Uhuru Kenyatta, told reporters. 

Sakaja, a member of Kenyatta's ruling party who joined the legislature in 2013, was enjoying drinks in a Nairobi bar when police caught him and 10 others long after a 9 p.m. through 4 a.m. curfew had set in.

11:50 A number of cinemas in Chinese cities from Shanghai to Chengdu have reopened after a six-month hiatus, but movie theaters remain closed in the capital, Beijing. 

China is the world's second-largest movie market and has suffered painful losses during the pandemic.

Authorities announced last week they would allow cinemas in low-risk places to resume operations but in a restricted manner.

Coronavirus cases have dropped sharply in China in recent months and the majority of the country is now considered low-risk. In the past few days, however, some places in Urumqi, the capital of China's far western region of Xinjiang, have been categorized as medium to high risk due to a fresh outbreak.

Still, many cities kept their movie theaters closed. For example, cinemas in Beijing, which experienced a fresh outbreak last month, have not reopened.

11:15 French authorities have reported 400 to 500 active coronavirus outbreak clusters within the country, but there are no signs of an impending "second wave," French Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Monday.

Many of the current virus clusters in the country can be traced back to slaughterhouses or other contained settings such as nursing homes, he said. Others have also appeared at family reunions and gatherings during the summer holidays.

Read moreFilm-loving France fears the loss of a generation to coronavirus

"At this point, we are very far from a second wave," Veran told Franceinfo radio. "The goal is not to worry people excessively, but to keep them on their guard."

Meanwhile, face masks were made mandatory in all enclosed public spaces in France. Those without masks in public could be fined €135 ($155), said Veran. The government also aims to have a stockpile of 60 million face masks by October, compared with just 3.5 million when the outbreak began.

The R-rate, indicating the level of viral transmission, is now 1.2, meaning that 10 infected people will infect an additional 12 on average. However, other areas are reporting rates as high as 1.55 and 2.6.

France has reported nearly 212,000 cases and over 30,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

10:15 The ripple effects of the coronavirus pandemic continue to be felt across Germany.

Farmers are reporting lower yields for two of the country's most beloved crops — asparagus and strawberries. Poor weather combined with lockdown restrictions imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19 mean Germany's asparagus harvest is projected to be 19 percent lower this year than in 2019, according to the Federal Statistical Office, or Destatis. The Office cited the difficulty in hiring migrant farmworkers, which meant not all fields could be harvested.

In addition, Germany is slated to see a 13% drop in its strawberry harvest compared to 2019, driven in part by frost and drought, Destatis said.

Read morePoland: The dark side of Warsaw's strawberry market

Meanwhile, when it comes to holidays in Germany, a camping trip might appear to offer better opportunities to escape the stress of coronavirus and maintain social distancing, but it's not what most people have in mind for this summer. According to a new YouGov poll, 78 percent of people in Germany say it is unlikely they will visit a campground for their summer vacation.

Those that are open to the idea of "roughing it" cited the safety of fresh air and the ability to change location if necessary as their main reasons to camp. However, 50% of those surveyed said that camping simply offers too few comforts, even amid the pandemic.

09:31 Russia has recorded a further 5,940 new cases over a 24-hour period, pushing its total number of infections to 777,486, the fourth-highest tally in the world.

Officials said 85 people had died in the last 24 hours, bringing the country's official death toll to 12,427.

Critics, however, have cast doubt on Russia's low mortality statistics, accusing authorities of under-reporting to play down the scale of the crisis.

The wearing of face masks outdoors is no longer mandatory in the Russian capital as the number of new infections has dwindled in recent weeks.

08:28 The health care situation in Quito has become "critical" due to the coronavirus outbreak in the Ecuadorian capital, Health Minister Juan Carlos Zevallos has revealed.

Between April and July, public hospitals in Quito almost tripled their intensive care units, increasing from 61 to 162, Zevallos told the Teleamazonas network.

Read more: Ecuador: Quito coronavirus situation 'critical'

Over the same period, demand for hospital beds in the city that is home to some 2.8 million people went up "by 1.6 times," Zevallos said.

According to official data, Quito has registered 10,599 cases and is the second hardest-hit city in the country after Guayaquil.

The port city, which is also known as the gateway to the Galapagos Islands, was the epicenter of the epidemic with corpses lying in the streets as hospitals were overwhelmed with an avalanche of patients.

Quito's mayor Jorge Yunda warned less than a month ago that health care services in the city were struggling to cope with the increased demand. 

Funeral workers move the coffin with the body of a man who died inside a taxi as he was being taken to hospital in Quito
Funeral workers move the coffin with the body of a man who died inside a taxi as he was being taken to hospital in QuitoImage: picture-alliance/AP Photo/D. Ochoa

In mid-May, Ecuador began to ease its lockdown, but authorities in Quito say the capital may need to reimpose some restrictions after a surge in cases.

07:11 British pharmaceutical firm GSK has announced plans to invest £130 million (€142 million, $163 million) to buy a 10% stake in Germany company CureVac, launching a collaboration to develop a coronavirus vaccine.

CureVac's existing COVID-19 mRNA and rabies vaccine research programs have not been included in the arrangement.

CureVac announced last month it would begin human trials of an experimental vaccine for treating the coronavirus in Germany.

06:33 The United Kingdom has come to an agreement to secure 90 million doses of two potential COVID-19 vaccines from the Pfizer Inc and BioNTech alliance and from the Valneva group, the country's business ministry has revealed.

Britain has signed off deals to acquire 30 million doses of the experimental BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine, and an agreement for 60 million doses from the French group Valneva, with an option to produce 40 million more doses if the vaccines prove to be safe and effective, the ministry confirmed.

"This new partnership with some of the world's foremost pharmaceutical and vaccine companies will ensure the UK has the best chance possible of securing a vaccine that protects those most at risk," business minister Alok Sharma said.

The deals come in addition to the previously announced agreement with AstraZeneca. The British-Swedish multinational pharmaceutical firm will make 100 million doses of its potential vaccine, produced in partnership with the Oxford University.

05:51 At least 14 prisoners have died from probable coronavirus complications in outbreaks at Egyptian detention centers, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

"At least 14 prisoners and detainees have died, most likely from COVID-19 complications, in 10 detention facilities as of July 15," HRW said in a statement.

The rights group made the assessment after consulting witness accounts, leaked letters from prisons, and reports by local rights groups.

"Prisons had insufficient medical care and virtually no access to testing for the virus or symptom screening," it said.

05:00 EU talks on a shared coronavirus stimulus package have broken up temporarily, with the bloc's leaders still at an impasse. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said progress had been made, but failure was still possible.

Leaders wrangled over the details of a €1.85 trillion ($2.1 trillion) post-coronavirus recovery plan into the early hours on Monday, with EU Council President Charles Michel appealing for compromise.

The marathon summit in Brussels, which began on Friday, is set to resume on Monday afternoon. Initially scheduled to last just two days, the negotiations have so far failed to resolve key divisions between member states.

"At times it didn't look good last night, but I feel that, on the whole, we are making progress," Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told reporters. "We were very close to failure," he added. "Things can still fall apart."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned on Sunday that it was still possible EU leaders may not arrive at an agreement on the unprecedented recovery package and long-term budget for the shattered EU economy. 

French President Emmanuel Macron leaves the European Council building in the early morning during an EU summit in Brussels
French President Emmanuel Macron was among the bleary-eyed leaders who left the European Council buildingImage: picture-alliance/AP Photo/O. Matthys

03:37 Australia's acting chief medical officer has warned that a spike in coronavirus cases in the city of Melbourne could take weeks to subside.

Australia's second-largest city, the capital of the state of Victoria, is under partial lockdown due to the new spread. 

"We have learned over time that the time between introducing a measure and seeing its effect is at least two weeks and sometimes longer than that," acting chief medical officer Paul Kelly told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Victoria on Monday reported 275 new coronavirus cases — down from a daily record of 438 three days earlier.

Australia was lauded for being a global leader in battling COVID-19, but lapses in quarantine last month have led to a surge in new cases.

Aside from the partial lockdown, residents around Melbourne have also been ordered to wear face masks if they leave their homes.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said it was too soon to tell if the measures were having an impact. "Until we bring some stability to this, we won't be able to talk about a trend," he said, referring to the drop in daily cases.

02:55 Germany has recorded a total of 201,823 coronavirus cases, with 249 new infections reported in the last 24 hours.

According to the latest figures from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases, the total number of deaths increased by two to 9,086.

Meanwhile, the southern state of Bavaria — which has recorded more cases and deaths than any other German state — announced that people returning from holiday might soon be tested for coronavirus at the airport upon arrival.

Read moreCoronavirus: Nurses in Germany remain understaffed and underpaid

02:40 The number of coronavirus cases in China's northwestern Urumqi city continues to rise with 17 new infections reported on Monday. This brings the total in China's latest outbreak to at least 47.

No new fatalities were reported, leaving the total death toll in China at 4,634 with 83,682 cases.

China had largely managed to contain local transmissions before the outbreak in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang region.

Beijing has not reported new cases in the past two weeks. City authorities said Sunday they were downgrading the emergency response level from two to three.

02:12 Cesar Salinas, president of the Bolivian Football Federation (FBF), has died of the coronavirus. He was hospitalized with COVID-19 earlier this month, according to FBF officials.

Salinas, 58, had chaired the federation since 2018.

In a statement on Sunday, the FBF highlighted Salinas' "dedication and commitment to national and international football."

"My condolences to the family and friends of Cesar Salinas, president of the Bolivian Football Federation. They have all my support in these hard times," Bolivia's interim president Jeanine Anez wrote on Twitter.

The South American Football Confederation (Conmebol) said "the South American soccer family deeply regret" Salinas' death.

Bolivia has so far registered 58,136 coronavirus cases and 2,106 related deaths.

01:18 The United States is reporting 63,872 new COVID-19 infections, taking its total caseload to 3,762,081.

The death toll rose to 140,474, with 514 fatalities in the past 24 hours. 

The hardest-hit country in the world, the US has registered over 60,000 new cases every day for the last six days. It recorded a peak on Friday, with 77,638 new infections.

Defending his handling of the crisis, President Donald Trump claimed on Sunday that the country was the "envy of the world" in virus testing.

Speaking to Fox News, Trump once again referred to his earlier prediction that the virus would disappear: "I'll be right eventually," he said.

He continued to oppose a national mandate for wearing masks, saying, "I want people to have a certain freedom."

#LoveIsNotTourism: Couples separated by travel restrictions

00:53 Mexican President Manuel Lopez Obrador vowed to improve public health facilities in his country, as the number of coronavirus-related fatalities rose to nearly 39,000, the fourth-highest death toll in the world.

"We want to remember those who died from the COVID-19 pandemic, and send a loving, fraternal hug to their relatives, to their friends," Lopez Obrador said in a video released on social media.

Mexico has so far recorded nearly 339,000 coronavirus cases, with the second-highest death toll in Latin America after Brazil, which has 78,772 deaths.

"There will be time later to pay tribute with all the protocol and ceremonies — a solemn tribute to those who have lost their lives due to this terrible pandemic," added Lopez Obrador.

The president read out 10 commitments to protect those vulnerable to COVID-19, including tackling "diseases caused by hunger and poverty," launching "a permanent campaign" to promote healthier eating and lifestyles, and treating hypertension, diabetes, and obesity as a priority.

Read more: In Mexico, coronavirus floods food banks with demand

00:29 South Africa's coronavirus death toll has passed the 5,000 mark, according to official figures.

The country — the worst-hit on the African continent — reported 85 new deaths on Sunday, taking the total tally to 5,033.

With 13,449 new infections, the total number of confirmed cases rose to 364,328.

The government imposed a strict lockdown in March, but the measures have been gradually eased to avoid economic collapse.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhiz urged citizens not to get complacent: "We are extremely concerned that fatigue seems to have set in and South Africans are letting down their guard at a time when the spread of infection is surging," he said.

"This will directly influence the rise in numbers in the next two weeks. Our ability to break the cycle of infections depends on our willingness to remain focused and disciplined."

Read moreCoronavirus pandemic exposes global inequalities, says UN chief

Going to school in a pandemic

00:16 Confirmed global deaths have risen to over 630,000, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The US tops the list with over 140,000 fatalities, followed by more than 78,000 in Brazil. Europe has so far recorded over 200,000 deaths.

As the pandemic shows no signs of receding, governments around the world are reintroducing stricter measures to tackle a surge in COVID-19 cases. For instance, Hong Kong has made the wearing of face masks compulsory in all public places and told nonessential government officials to work from home. Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said the situation in the Asian financial hub is "really critical" and that she sees "no sign" that the pandemic is under control.

Authorities in Barcelona have imposed restrictions on beachgoers because sunbathers were ignoring social distancing rules.

COVID-19 cases in the Australian state of Victoria rose again on Sunday, prompting authorities to make masks mandatory in Melbourne and the nearby district of Mitchell. Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said those who fail to wear a mask will be fined A$200 dollars ($140, €122).

"There's no vaccine to this wildly infectious virus and it's a simple thing, but it's about changing habits, it's about becoming a simple part of your routine,'' Andrews said.

00:09 France is set to tighten mask-wearing rules amid a surge in coronavirus cases. Starting from Monday, those not donning face masks in public places will be fined €135 ($154).

Until now, masks were compulsory for public transport and recommended for supermarkets and other shops.

With over 30,000 deaths, France is one of the countries most affected by the coronavirus pandemic in Europe. As of Sunday, the country has recorded nearly 175,000 COVID-19 infections.

00:07 With the infection rate improving in parts of the country, Chile is mulling a plan to gradually ease coronavirus restrictions.

The "Step by Step" plan includes five stages that go from complete quarantine to advanced opening.

According to officials, the plan will factor in epidemiological criteria, healthcare capacity and tracing capabilities.

The South American country has reported a total of 330,000 cases of infection with over 8,500 virus-related deaths.

President Sebastian Pinera said Sunday that the situation in 12 regions had improved in recent weeks.

00:00 Catch up on Sunday's coronavirus news here

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.

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