- Number of U.S. workers applying for unemployment benefits climbs back over one million after two weeks of declines.
- Some who went to huge motorcycle rally in Sturgis, N.D., have tested positive for COVID-19, officials say.
- Australia’s hard-hit Victoria state reports six-week low in new coronavirus cases.
- Israel opens floating, open-air cinema to adhere to COVID-19 precautions.
- France sees biggest weekly spike in virus infections since April.
- Masks mandatory, group sizes limited in southwestern Manitoba after rise in COVID-19 cases.
- Ottawa extends CERB, announces new COVID-19 ‘recovery’ financial benefits.
The U.S. government says the number of workers applying for unemployment benefits climbed back over one million last week after two weeks of declines, the latest evidence that the country’s economy is still struggling amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The figures reported Thursday suggest that employers are still slashing jobs even as some businesses reopen and some sectors like housing and manufacturing have rebounded.
“Getting the virus in check dictates when there’ll be relief from this economic nightmare, and it doesn’t look like it will be soon,” said AnnElizabeth Konkel, an economist at Indeed, a job listings website.
The coronavirus has killed more than 173,000 people and caused over 5.5 million confirmed infections in the country, with deaths rising by more than 1,000 a day on average.
The overall number of laid-off American workers collecting unemployment benefits declined last week from 15.5 million to 14.8 million. Many of them probably found jobs. But some may have used up all of their benefits, which in most states run out after about six months.
The previous weekly report from the U.S. Labor Department showed new jobless claims had dipped below one million for the first time since March, to 971,000. But that trend reversed itself this time.
Many businesses and consumers remain paralyzed by uncertainty and restricted by lockdowns, and job gains appear to be slowing from the rapid bounce-backs of May and June, when millions of restaurant and store employees were rehired. The number of job openings posted on Indeed fell last week for the first time since April.
Twenty-two million jobs were lost to the outbreak in March and April. In the past three months, only 9.3 million have been regained, and unemployment remains high at 10.2 per cent.
As well, those who are drawing unemployment benefits are now getting far less aid because a $600-a-week federal benefit has expired, which means they must get by solely on the much smaller benefits from their states. That has deepened the struggle for many and put some in danger of eviction.
President Donald Trump has signed an executive order to provide $300 a week in federal unemployment aid. Twenty-five states so far have said they will dispense it, though they would need to revamp their computer systems, and it could take a few weeks for the money to start flowing to some recipients.
Arizona said Monday it has started paying out the extra $300 this week, the first state to do so.
Meanwhile, in South Dakota, health officials warned Thursday that a number of people who attended the 10-day Sturgis Motorcycle Rally this month, including some who came from out of state, have come down with COVID-19.
Department of Health officials did not give an exact number of rally-goers who tested positive, but they said it was under 25. The rally, which ended Sunday, brought hundreds of thousands of people from far and wide to the city in the western part of the state.
Sturgis is planning to conduct mass testing of its residents next week in an attempt to stem a possible outbreak of infections from the rally.
What’s happening with coronavirus in Canada
As of 8:45 p.m. ET on Thursday, Canada had 123,873 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 110,288 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 9,090.
The federal government is extending the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) by one more month and revamping the employment insurance program to allow more people to receive financial assistance during COVID-19.
WATCH | Feds have spent $37 million so far on quarantine hotels:
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland and Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough announced the new measures during a news conference in Ottawa on Thursday.
The suite of benefit reforms, aimed at helping Canadians through the transition as the economy gradually reopens, is expected to cost $37 billion.
Measures include greater flexibility on the work hours required for EI, making it easier for people to qualify for a one-year period.
CERB, which pays people $2,000 a month, will now be in place until Sept. 27.
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In Manitoba, the province’s top doctor has announced that gathering sizes will be restricted to 10 and face masks will be mandatory in public places in the Prairie Mountain Health region starting Monday.
The restrictions announced Thursday by Dr. Brent Roussin mark the first widespread use of Manitoba’s colour-coded pandemic response system, which allows the province to bring in rules that target specific regions, communities or industries.
More clusters, a higher test positivity rate and a number of large potential exposures at beaches and parks in the region led to the decision to raise the region’s response level to orange, or the “restricted” level in the new system, Roussin said.
Here’s what’s happening around the world
According to Johns Hopkins University, the global total of confirmed coronavirus cases is now more than 22.5 million. More than 790,000 people have died, while 14.3 million have recovered.
Australia’s hard-hit Victoria state is reporting its lowest tally of new coronavirus cases in more than six weeks, following two weeks of unprecedented lockdown of the state capital, Melbourne.
Victoria’s Health Department reported on Friday that the state had 179 new infections and nine deaths in the latest 24-hour period. That is the lowest count since 131 new infections were reported July 8. Victoria had recorded 240 new cases Thursday and 216 Wednesday.
State authorities say the daily infection rate will have to fall to single digits or low double digits before Melbourne’s lockdown is relaxed.
Movie-goers boarded boats floating on the shimmering waters of a Tel Aviv lake on Thursday for a test screening at Israel’s first “sail-in” cinema.
With indoor film theatres shut because of coronavirus restrictions, the municipality of Tel Aviv launched the floating cinema to allow residents to catch a movie in the open air while still keeping a safe distance from each other.
The floating cinema provided seating aboard 70 pedal and rowing boats set in the Yarkon Park lake, two metres apart to maintain social distancing, Tel Aviv said.
Two films will be screened every evening during the last week of August, the municipality said. Thursday’s screening, attended by about 200 people, was a pilot event that featured the family comedy Paddington 2.
France’s President Emmanuel Macron say the country will send millions of students back to school starting Sept. 1, despite the biggest weekly spike in virus infections in months.
The national health agency reported 4,771 new infections Thursday, and more than 18,000 new cases in the past week — the biggest weekly rise since April. The increase is attributed to summer vacation parties, family gatherings and clusters in workplaces as people returned to work.
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Concerns are mounting among teachers and parents that schools can’t keep the virus at bay. A leading teachers’ union asked the government this week to delay the start of the school year.
Italy reported 845 new infections in the past 24 hours, the Health Ministry said on Thursday, marking the highest daily increase since May.
Nearly 77,500 virus tests were conducted in the last day, compared with the estimated 50,000 daily tests in the first half of August. The additional testing attempts to catch new clusters before they increase.
The government has mandated testing for all people returning from Spain, Malta, Greece and Croatia and set up testing sites at airports to try to inform infected passengers upon arrival.
Meanwhile, the Venice Film Festival, the first major in-person cinema showcase of the COVID-19 era, is requiring participants to wear face masks during screenings and take a coronavirus test if they are arriving from outside Europe.
According to guidelines published Thursday, fans and the general public will be kept away from the red carpet during the Sept. 2-12 festival, and movie-goers will have to buy tickets and reserve seats online to ensure every other seat is left vacant.
The World Health Organization’s European office said it has begun discussions with Russia to try to obtain more information about the experimental COVID-19 vaccine the country recently approved.
Last week, Russia became the first country in the world to license a coronavirus vaccine when President Vladimir Putin announced its approval.
But the vaccine has not yet passed the advanced trials normally required to prove it works before being licensed, a major breach of scientific protocol. Russian officials claimed the vaccine would provide lasting immunity to COVID-19 but offered no proof.
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Catherine Smallwood, a senior emergency official at WHO Europe, said the agency had begun “direct discussions” with Russia and that WHO officials have been sharing “the various steps and information that’s going to be required for WHO to take assessments.”
WHO’s Europe director, Dr. Hans Kluge, said the agency welcomed all advances in vaccine development but that every vaccine must submit to the same clinical trials.
South Korea‘s coronavirus infections are back “in full swing” and spreading nationwide after members of a church attended a political demonstration, authorities said on Thursday.
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) reported 288 new cases as of midnight on Wednesday, marking a week of triple-digit daily increases, although down slightly from the previous day’s 297.
The latest outbreak is driven by hundreds of infections among members of a church run by a far-right preacher. They had attended an anti-government protest in Seoul on Aug. 15, the 75th anniversary of Japan’s Second World War surrender and the end of colonial rule.
At least 53 of the new infections are linked to the Sarang Jeil Church, bringing the group’s total to 676. Hundreds more church members are being traced for testing.
Police in Vietnam have arrested four men accused of defrauding more than 5,000 Americans trying to buy COVID-19 personal protective equipment (PPE) online out of nearly $1 million US, the Ministry of Public Security said on Thursday.
The arrests of the four, aged between 22 and 36, were made following a joint investigation by the ministry and U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Homeland Security Investigations, the ministry said in a statement on its website.
In March, the four began operating 110 websites that offered PPE, including hand sanitizers, masks and disinfectant wipes, and received money from Americans via their Paypal accounts, the ministry said.
The four never had the products offered on the websites, and their victims never received what they paid for, the ministry said.
Indian health authorities reported another record number of new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours as the country ramps up testing to more than 900,000 a day.
The 69,652 new cases reported Thursday push India’s total reported cases past 2.8 million, of which two million have recovered.
The Health Ministry said another 977 coronavirus fatalities were recorded in the past 24 hours, raising total deaths to 53,866.
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