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Coronavirus latest: WHO launches response review panel

July 9, 2020

The WHO says an independent panel is to assess global responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. This comes as the number of cases worldwide approaches 12 million. Follow DW for the latest.

Nurses and doctors at Huichang People's Hospital pay tribute as China holds national mourning for those who died of the coronavirus in Ganzhou
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/HPIC/Z. Haipeng
  • WHO sets up independent review panel
  • Nearly 5 million people under renewed lockdown in Melbourne, Australia
  • Coronavirus cases in the US reach 3 million amid world record daily increase
  • More than 12 million COVID-19 cases and over 552,000 deaths worldwide

All updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT)

23:59  We have now closed this live updates article. For the latest developments, see: Coronavirus latest — UN says Latin America and Caribbean are a 'hot spot'

23:45 Venezuela's socialist party chief Diosdado Cabello, considered the second-most powerful person in the country after President Nicolas Maduro, has said he tested positive for COVID-19.  

He is the highest-ranking figure in Venezuela to become infected with the virus. 

Cabello said on Twitter that he is isolating and getting treatment. ''We will win!'' he wrote, pledging to recover soon from the illness. 

He was last seen publicly on Tuesday when he met with South Africa's ambassador, Joseph Nkosi. In photographs released by the government, Cabello is seen standing alongside and bumping fists with the envoy while wearing a black mask. 

Venezuela is considered one of the world's least prepared countries to confront the pandemic, with a poor healthcare infrastructure where hospitals are routinely short on basic supplies like water, electricity, and medicine.  

Officials had reported 8,010 confirmed cases and 75 deaths from the virus so far and the country has been on an ongoing lockdown for nearly four months. 

23:30 South Africa has announced its highest daily number of confirmed coronavirus cases with 13,674 new infections.

The country - Africa's most developed nation - is now a hot spot in the global pandemic with 238,339 total confirmed cases.

Gauteng province, which includes Johannesburg and the capital, Pretoria, has more than a third of the total cases.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has said South Africa could run out of available hospital beds within the month.

23:20 Italian researchers said a study of 31 women with COVID-19 who delivered babies in March and April, found signs of the virus in several samples of umbilical cord blood, the placenta and, in one case, breast milk. 

The small study adds to some of the evidence indicating that a pregnant woman infected with the coronavirus might be able to spread it to her fetus. 

Nonetheless, Dr. Claudio Fenizia, an immunology specialist at the University of Milan, who leads the study, said it is still ''too early to make guidelines'' or to change care towards pregnant women during the pandemic. But Fenzia believes the study is still useful and more attention should be paid to the subject. 

So far, doctors have been trying to determine whether in-the-womb infection of COVID-19 could occur, as it does with other viruses such as HIV and Zika.  

Several early reports from China point in this direction, although doctors have not been able to ascertain if those women spread the virus to their babies during or after birth. 

22:45 Jeanine Añez Chávez, the President of Bolivia, said on Friday that she had tested positive for COVID-19.

In a tweet, she said that she plans to stay in isolation for 14 days, after which she will get tested again. Chávez said that she would continue working from isolation. Her positive result comes at a time when Bolivia's hospitals are overwhelmed by demand and struggling to admit COVID-19 patients. Bolivia currently has 42,984 cases.

21:25 The famous beaches of Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro will only officially reopen for sunbathing and swimming only once there is a vaccine, according to mayor Marcelo Crivella.

However, many of the beaches are open for exercise and water sports, and beachgoers have regularly broken the rules without using masks or following social distancing guidelines.

“Where you can’t use masks, the inclination is to only return when there is a vaccine, which is being tested, or when contamination is close to zero,” said Crivella.

Brazil is the second-worst hit country by the pandemic after the United States, with more than 1.6 million cases of the disease. The state of Rio de Janeiro has seen nearly 11,000 people die from the illness, the second-worst affected state in Brazil.

Brasilien RIo de Janeiro Ipanema Badegäste
Image: picture-alliance/Zuma/E. Lustosa

20:00 The first case of coronavirus was recorded in northwest Syria, opposition health officials said.

The case revived fears of disaster if the pandemic reached the rebel-held Idlib province’s displacement camps. 

"We regret today to announce the first case of coronavirus in a health worker at one of the hospitals [in Idlib]," said opposition health official Maram al-Sheikh.

The patient was a male Syrian doctor in his 30s who had been working in a hospital in the town of Bab al-Hawa on the Syrian-Turkish border, according to Mahmoud Daher, the head of the World Health Organization’s office in Turkey’s Gaziantemp.

"There have been no cases so far in northwest Syria until this morning," he said. Aid groups have been preparing for an outbreak in the region, which is home to around 3 million people, many of whom live in cramped conditions in displacement camps.

Syria has recorded 372 cases of coronavirus, and a death toll of 14 in government-held areas, while the United Nations has recorded six cases and one death in the Kurdish-controlled northeast.

18:45 Italy closed its borders to travelers from 13 countries that it deemed to be high risk.

Those affected are Armenia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brazil, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Chile, Kuwait, Northern Macedonia, Moldova, Oman, Panama, Peru and the Dominican Republic, the Health Ministry said.

"Globally, the pandemic is in its most acute phase. We cannot jeopardize the sacrifices made by Italians in these months. This is why we have chosen the path of utmost caution," Health Minister Roberto Speranza said. 

People who have stayed in or transited through those countries will be blocked at the border, while Italy will suspend direct and indirect flight connections to the specified nations.

Additionally, Italy has been dealing with a new spike in cases this week, linked to arrivals from Bangladesh, which on Tuesday led the ministry to ban incoming flights from the country. 

Italy was one of the hardest-hit countries in Europe, with a death toll of nearly 35,000.

18:00 A dozen countries including the United States, Britain and Singapore agreed to ramp up efforts to get some 200,000 stranded merchant sailors home. Crew switches have been on hold amid the pandemic.

Due to travel restrictions, many sailors have been at sea for longer than the 11-month limit prescribed by a maritime labor convention. 

Shipping industry officials have said that many sailors are at a breaking point, in a situation that the United Nations has dubbed a "humanitarian crisis," while other organizations have warned of an increase in suicides. 

The signatories to the agreement to open foreign borders to seafarers and boost repatriation efforts include Britain, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Indonesia, the Netherlands, Norway, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and the United States. The countries also agreed to designate seafarers as "key workers."

Guy Platten, Secretary-General of the International Chamber of Shipping association, said the countries that made the agreement to open their borders must now act on their commitments.

"Governments must now use this summit as a catalyst to implement the solutions the shipping industry has provided, applying the political will needed to put them into practice," said Platten.

15:10 The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention chief said the pandemic was reaching "full speed" on the continent.

There are more than 500,000 confirmed cases in Africa, with that tally dominated by South Africa's roughly 224,000. About 12,000 people are known to have died.

Africa CDC chief John Nkengasong called for wearing masks more often, saying it would save lives and the economy.

"This battle will be won or lost at the community level," said Nkengasong during a news briefing from Addis Ababa.

He also called for more testing, complaining that just 5.7 million tests had been conducted for a continent with a population of 1.3 billion.

14:00 Bulgaria has reintroduced restrictions on movement after a spike in cases.

Health minister Kiril Ananiev ordered nightclubs and bars to close their indoor spaces again starting on Friday, while the outdoor areas would be allowed to remain open at 50% capacity. Soccer matches and other sporting events will have to take place behind closed doors. Weddings and other festivities could be attended by up to 30 people, but under strict social distancing rules.

There were more than 6,300 reported cases in the country as of Thursday, compared to about 2,700 last month in the country of nearly 7 million people.

12:50 Indonesia reported its biggest daily rise in infections, following an outbreak at a military training center in West Java.

Nearly half of the 2,567 new cases were linked to the outbreak. Health ministry official Achmad Yurianto told reporters that a significant new cluster had emerged at the center, where 1,262 cadets tested positive for the virus. 

"We implore the people to stay calm, not panic, because it's being taken care of professionally according to international standards," he said. 

Over 13,000 people showing acute symptoms were also under close medical observation, but had yet to be tested, while another 38,498 were being monitored for having come in contact with the virus, said Yurianto. 

The world’s fourth most populous country, with nearly 268 million residents, has recorded just 70,736 cases and over 3,400 deaths since the start of the pandemic. The health ministry also reported 58 new deaths on Thursday. 

However, experts have suggested that the actual number of cases and death toll could be much higher, although the government denies this.

Partial data for 20 of Indonesia's 35 provinces, gathered from local governments' websites, showed that there were a further 6,847 deaths of people who had not been tested but displayed severe symptoms. Untested patients are not counted in the official coronavirus death toll in Indonesia.

12:25 The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday it was setting up an independent panel to examine both its own and world governments' response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The panel will be headed by former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, who will both also choose its members, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual meeting with representatives of WHO's 194 member states.

"This is a time for self-reflection," Tedros said, adding that "Through you, the world will understand the truth of what happened and also the solutions to build our future better as one humanity."

The WHO itself has come under criticism for its handing of the crisis, notably from the US. WHO member states had also called unanimously for a review of the global response to the pandemic in May, Tedros said.

11:40 Pakistan is set to open its educational institutions from September 15, the government has announced, as the number of infections steadily declines.

Students would return to schools, colleges and universities if the current downward trend in cases continued, Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood said.

Students and teachers would have to follow strict "standard operating procedures to curtail the virus at campuses," the minister told reporters at a briefing in Islamabad.

Pakistan ordered a nationwide lockdown in March and shut all of its educational institutions. Plans to hold classes online failed to substantially materialize due to a lack of internet in the country's conflict zones.

How Pakistani Kashmir managed to contain the coronavirus

09:15 Some 5 million people in Australia's second-largest city, Melbourne, went into new coronavirus lockdown on Thursday, just weeks after a first set of restrictions ended.

Residents in the metropolitan region are now allowed to leave the house only for work, outside sport, going to the doctor and to buy essential groceries. Schools have once more been closed.

The new restrictions were imposed after authorities in the state of Victoria, where Melbourne is situated, reported 191 new cases of the coronavirus between Monday and Tuesday, the biggest spike there since the pandemic began. Nine inner-city public housing towers in Melbourne were put under separate lockdown in recent days after a cluster of cases was discovered.

Ahead of the lockdown, supermarket shelves were stripped bare of many essential items. The largest supermarket chain says it has put buying limits on items such as pasta, vegetables and sugar.

So far some 9,000 cases of infection have been confirmed in the country, with 106 people dying of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

08:00 Twenty-six pubs in Ireland face potential prosecution and the risk of losing their licenses over breaches of health protocols aimed at stemming the spread of the virus following the country's reopening of the sector, Irish police said. The number represents 1% of the 2,785 premises in the country.

Examples of violations include instances where customers were consuming alcohol but not food, and no evidence of receipts to show that food had been sold.

Authorities also noted a lack of adherence to health protocols, such as allowing large groups to sit at one table, little or no social distancing, no advisory signs and no coronavirus contact tracing information from customers being recorded.

Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin warned earlier this week that initial plans to fully reopen pubs on July 20 could be scuppered after "very worrying" scenes of packed crowds of drinkers outside some bars.

07:44 In Spain's northeastern region of Catalonia, an order making face masks mandatory in public went into force on Thursday, with those violating the regulation facing fines of €100 ($113). The order was announced on Wednesday after more than 200,000 people in the Segria area were placed under lockdown following a number of coronavirus outbreaks there.

Catalonia has seen the biggest increase in confirmed new cases of any region in Spain since a nationwide lockdown was lifted in mid-June. 

Masks are mandatory across all of Spain in shared indoor spaces and outdoors as well when 1.5 meters (5 feet) of physical distance cannot be maintained, but Catalonia is the first region to make the wearing of masks compulsory in all situations for people over six years of age regardless of distance. Shortly afterward, the Basque town of Ordizia also imposed a similar regulation after a cluster of nearly 50 cases was discovered there.

Spain has been one of the worst-hit European countries, with nearly 270,000 infections and more than 28,000 deaths.

07:15 Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has blocked measures for indigenous communities that would have meant the federal government had to provide drinking water, disinfectants and a guarantee of hospital beds during the pandemic.

Bolsonaro's office said the measures, approved by Congress, were "against the public interest" and "unconstitutional," because they create additional costs for the federal government without new sources of revenue to cover them. Therefore the president vetoed the provisions.

Brazil's indigenous population of some 850,000 is more at risk of contracting COVID-19 as they live in remote areas with little access to health care. In addition, their communal lifestyle renders social distancing impossible.

The medical team of the Brazilian Armed Forces arrives at the Cruzeirinho village to assist indigenous population in mid-June
Brazil's indigenous communities face a greater risk of contracting COVID-19Image: Getty Images/AFP/E. Sa

"The vetoes deny the minimum necessary for the survival of these communities," Brazilian indigenous advocacy group Instituto Socioambiental (ISA) said in a statement. "The vetoes reveal that the president's plan is not to have a plan."

The president also blocked funding for the states and local governments with emergency plans for indigenous areas, as well as measures to help give them more information on the novel virus.

Bolsonaro, meanwhile, said he was doing well after testing positive for COVID-19.

07:00 German exports continue to suffer severely under the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, as many trading partners have taken massive economic hits amid the crisis. Exports in May were 29.7% lower than the same month a year ago, according to figures released by the Federal Statistical Office on Thursday.

However, exports were up 9% on the previous month, marking the possible beginning of a recovery. April itself saw a fall of 24% in comparison with the month before, the biggest slump since August 1990.

Imports in May were 3.5% higher than in April, but still 21.7% lower than in May 2019. The European Commission has predicted a drop of 6.3% in Germany's GDP for this year, the biggest fall in the post-war era. 

06:30 India has reported almost 25,000 new cases while 487 more people have died of COVID-19. The new cases announced by the Health Ministry mean the country has recorded a total of 767,296 infections, the third most reported by any country in the world.

The uptick in cases comes as the Institute of Mathematical Sciences in Chennai said its calculated transmission rate for the coronavirus rose during the first week of July to 1.19 after gradually falling from a peak of 1.83 in March. A transmission rate is the number of people that are infected, on average, from a single case.

Infection numbers have soared in India since the government eased lockdown restrictions and a vast increase in testing was implemented. The country is now performing some 200,000 tests on a daily basis, compared to just a few hundred a day in March.

India unveils new COVID strategy

05:48 Tokyo has registered its highest daily increase in cases since the start of the outbreak with 224 new infections, Japan's national broadcaster NHK reported.

The figure surpasses Tokyo's previous high of 206 cases reported on April 17.

The government ended a state of emergency at the end of May and fears are increasing over a second wave of infections, particularly in light of the new numbers.

Nationwide, Japan has so far reported a total of 21,125 cases, including 712 on a cruise ship quarantined near Tokyo in February. The death toll in the country currently stands at 995.

People wearing protective masks make their way at a local market district in Tokyo, Japan in mid-May
Tokyo logged it's highest daily jump in cases since the start of the pandemicImage: Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon

04:49 The popular Indonesian resort island of Bali, famous for its white sand beaches, has reopened after a three-month lockdown. Locals and stranded foreigners were allowed to resume public activities as the island prepares to allow foreign arrivals again starting in September.

Busy beaches and streets on the Southeast Asian island were emptied in early April, with the exception of special patrols responsible for enforcing coronavirus health protocols. Authorities closed bars, shops, sit-down restaurants, public swimming pools and the local airport on the island of 4 million residents. 

The local government has already started lifting restrictions, however Bali Governor I Wayan Koster said tourists will still face strict rules in hotels, restaurants and on beaches.

In a news conference ahead of the opening, Koster said Bali would gradually reopen local places to people currently on the island. Arrivals from the rest of Indonesia will be welcome starting on July 31. Bali will allow foreign arrivals from September 11.

Tourism is the main source of income for the predominantly Hindu island in the mostly Muslim nation.

Bali has reported over 1,900 coronavirus infections, including 25 deaths. Indonesia has confirmed more than 68,000 cases and 3,359 fatalities, more than any other Southeast Asian country.

03:36 Germany’s public health agency the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) has said the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany has risen by 442 to 197,783.

The RKI also reported that the death toll was up by 12 at 9,048.

02:38 The US state of Texas has resumed executions after a five-month pause due to the pandemic. Inmate Billy Joe Wardlow was put to death by lethal injection at the state penitentiary in Huntsville.

Wardlow became the first inmate to executed since February 6 – before the pandemic and the second in the US since the nation began reopening following pandemic-related shutdowns.

The execution went ahead with hygiene measures in place. Execution witnesses on Wednesday were given masks and gloves. All prison officers and officials wore masks.

The US Supreme Court declined to stop the 45-year-old man's execution for the crime he committed in 1993.

02:00 The US recorded more than 59,000 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, making it the biggest increase ever reported by a country in a single day, according to a Reuters tally.

There were nearly 10,000 new cases in Florida, nearly 9,000 in Texas and 7,800 in California.

Deaths per day in the US also rose to the highest levels since early June, to more than 900.

USA I Coronavirus I Henderson I Nevada
The issue of whether to wear a mask has now become a political oneImage: picture-alliance/AP/J. Locher

Late on Wednesday, the total number of cases in the US crossed the grim milestone of 3 million cases.

Figures from the Johns Hopkins University also show a record for Tuesday.

Despite the rise in infections and deaths, US President Donald Trump on Wednesday threatened to withhold federal funding if school districts did not bring their students back into the classroom in the fall.

01:03 Mexico has posted a record for new coronavirus cases reported on a single day, with 6,995 cases. Its total tally of infections now stands at 275,003, health ministry data showed.

The jump was recorded as Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador met with US President Donald Trump to mark the launch of the new North American trade agreement.

00:30 The number of confirmed cases in Africa's most populous country, Nigeria, has reached 30,000, said the country's disease control center.

Latest figures put the country's death toll at 684.

So far, the country's 200 million inhabitants have, like many other African nations, avoided the high death rates of the US, Brazil and parts of Europe.

But health experts fear a lack of reliable data means the virus could be spreading unchecked in Africa.

00:01 President Donald Trump's rally and other events in Tulsa have "likely" contributed to the spike in the county's caseload, a local public health official has told reporters. 

"In the past few days we've had almost 500 cases and we knew we had several large events a little over two weeks ago," Bruce Dart, director of the Tulsa City-County Health Department, said on being asked about Trump's campaign and the protests over racial injustice. 

"So I guess we just connect the dots."

Trump held his first campaign rally in Tulsa last month amid a surge in coronavirus infections in the nation. 

The event which attracted thousands of supporters, who were not required to wear a mask, came under criticism from public health experts.

Tulsa has reported over 4,500 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 72 deaths.

00:00 Catch up on Wednesday's coronavirus news here: Coronavirus latest: US tops 3 million coronavirus cases

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.

dvv, kmm/rc (dpa, AP, AFP, Reuters)