- WHO reports record daily increase of more than 228,000 coronavirus cases.
- WHO officials arrive in Beijing to investigate origins of pandemic.
- Canada’s hardest-hit nursing homes lost 40% of residents in just 3 months of the pandemic.
- Florida reports its 2nd sharpest daily rise in cases as Disney theme parks prepare to open.
- U.K. eases quarantine measures for travellers.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reported a record increase in global coronavirus cases on Friday, with the total rising by 228,102 in 24 hours.
The biggest increases were in the United States, Brazil, India and South Africa, according to a daily report. The previous WHO record for new cases was 212,326 on July 4. Deaths remained steady at about 5,000 a day.
According to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md., the total of confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide was over 12.3 million as of 2:45 p.m. ET on Friday. More than 556,000 people have died while more than 6.7 million have recovered. The U.S. and Brazil lead case numbers, with a combined total of more than 4.9 million.
Two WHO experts headed to the Chinese capital on Friday to lay the groundwork for a larger mission to investigate the origins of the pandemic.
An animal health expert and an epidemiologist will meet Chinese counterparts in Beijing to set the “scope and terms of reference” for a WHO-led international mission aimed at learning how the virus jumped from animals to humans, a WHO statement said.
WATCH | How did coronavirus become a human infection?
Scientists believe the virus may have originated in bats and was transmitted to another mammal such as a civet cat or an armadillo-like pangolin before being passed on to people.
A cluster of infections late last year focused initial attention on a fresh food market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, but the discovery of earlier cases suggests the animal-to-human jump may have happened elsewhere.
In an effort to block future outbreaks, China has cracked down on the trade in wildlife and closed some markets while enforcing strict containment measures that appear to have virtually stopped new local infections.
The WHO mission is politically sensitive, with the United States — the top funder of the UN body — moving to cut ties with it over allegations it mishandled the outbreak and is biased toward China.
“China took the lead in inviting WHO experts to investigate and discuss scientific virus tracing,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said Friday.
In contrast, he said, the U.S. “not only announced its withdrawal from the World Health Organization but also politicized the anti-epidemic issue and played a buck-passing game to shift responsibilities.”
More than 120 nations called for an investigation into the origins of the virus at the World Health Assembly in May. China has insisted that WHO lead the investigation and that it wait until the pandemic is brought under control.
Separately on Thursday, WHO acknowledged the possibility that the coronavirus might be spread in the air under certain conditions — after more than 200 scientists urged the agency to do so.
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In an open letter published this week in a journal, two scientists from Australia and the U.S. wrote that studies have shown “beyond any reasonable doubt that viruses are released during exhalation, talking and coughing in microdroplets small enough to remain aloft in the air.”
The researchers, along with more than 200 others, appealed for national and international authorities, including WHO, to adopt more stringent protective measures.
The health body has long dismissed the possibility that the coronavirus is spread in the air except for certain risky medical procedures, such as when patients are first put on breathing machines.
In a change to its previous thinking, WHO said on Thursday that studies evaluating COVID-19 outbreaks in restaurants, choir practices and fitness classes suggested the virus might have been spread in the air.
Meanwhile, Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the U.S., said on Friday the coronavirus is likely spreading through the air to some degree.
“Still some question about aerosol but likely some degree of aerosol,” Fauci said by video during a panel session at a COVID-19 conference organized by the International AIDS Society.
What’s happening with coronavirus in Canada
As of 2:45 p.m. ET on Friday, Canada had 107,021 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 70,811 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 8,793.
Newfoundland and Labrador has reported its first new case of COVID-19 in six weeks. The patient is a man in his 50s who had recently returned from the United States, according to the provincial health department.
The department says the man, who lives in the Eastern Health region, is self-isolating and did not travel through other Atlantic provinces.
Meanwhile, Nova Scotia has extended its state of emergency for another two weeks. Emergency measures are now in place until July 26.
The extension was announced as the province reported no new cases of COVID-19 and one more recovery — leaving only three active cases.
Some public health and infectious disease experts are pressing for governments in Canada to shift to minimizing, not eradicating, COVID-19 while allowing society to resume functioning.
The open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and all premiers, dated July 6, says aiming to prevent or contain every case is not sustainable at this stage in the pandemic.
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“We need to accept that COVID-19 will be with us for some time and to find ways to deal with it,” the 18 experts wrote.
The aim of lockdowns and physical distancing was to flatten the epidemic curve so that health-care systems wouldn’t be overwhelmed with too many cases at once, Neil Rau, an infectious disease physician and medical microbiologist at the University of Toronto said. Stamping out the virus is a different goalpost.
Here’s what’s happening around the world
Florida confirmed its place as an emerging epicentre of the pandemic in the United States on Friday by reporting its second-sharpest daily rise in cases, while Walt Disney Co. prepared to reopen its flagship theme park in Orlando to the chagrin of some employees.
Florida recorded 11,433 new coronavirus cases on Friday, the state health department said, more evidence that the virus is still spreading largely unchecked throughout parts of the country.
The state experienced the surge after initially avoiding the worst of the outbreak that hit New York and other northeastern U.S. states. Friday’s total was just short of the state’s record high for new cases, set last Saturday.
The Walt Disney World theme park in Orlando will open to a limited number of guests on Saturday. To lower the risks, visitors and employees will have to wear masks and undergo temperature checks, and the resort will not hold parades, fireworks displays and other activities that draw crowds.
Around 19,000 people, including workers, signed a petition asking Disney to delay the reopening and the actors’ union that represents 750 Walt Disney World performers has filed a grievance alleging retaliation against its members over the union’s demand that they be tested for the coronavirus.
Texas is marking its deadliest week of the pandemic, reporting on Thursday a record daily death toll of more than 100, a new high for hospitalizations for the 10th consecutive day, and a nearly 16 per cent positive test rate, its highest yet.
In Arizona, hospitals were at nearly 90 per cent capacity, with a record 3,437 patients hospitalized as of Wednesday, and a record number of those, 575, on ventilators, health officials said. Earlier in the week, a record high number of 871 patients filled intensive care beds.
Meanwhile, officials in Mississippi say the state’s five largest hospitals had no ICU beds available for patients by midweek because of a surge in cases. Four more hospitals had five per cent or less of ICU beds open.
Quarantine measures for those travelling to the United Kingdom from around 70 countries and overseas territories, including France and Italy, no longer apply from Friday in a boost to the ailing aviation and travel industries hit by COVID-19.
Those arriving from higher-risk countries will still have to self-quarantine for 14 days, but many popular destinations are now exempt, meaning millions of Britons are able to take summer holidays without having to stay at home when they return.
The WHO emergencies chief said the agency believes an unexplained pneumonia outbreak in Kazakhstan is likely due to the coronavirus.
Dr. Michael Ryan says Kazakh authorities have reported more than 10,000 lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in the last week and just under 50,000 cases and 264 deaths as of Tuesday.
“We’re looking at the actual testing and the quality of testing to make sure that there haven’t been false negative tests for some of those other pneumonias that are provisionally tested negative,” Ryan said. He added that many pneumonia cases were likely to be COVID-19 and “just have not been diagnosed correctly.”
Meanwhile, Kazakhstan’s president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, said on Friday he may fire his cabinet if a second, two-week lockdown fails to curb the coronavirus outbreak in the country. Kazakhstan, which imposed a new lockdown on Sunday, has confirmed almost 55,000 COVID-19 infections, including 264 deaths.
WATCH | Pneumonia in Kazakhstan likely related to COVID-19, WHO says:
India is reporting another record one-day spike in coronavirus cases, prompting some states to reimpose lockdowns in high-risk areas.
The 26,506 cases reported Friday bring India’s total to 793,802. The Health Ministry also reported another 475 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities up to 21,604.
The ministry said the recovery rate was continuing to improve at more than 60 per cent.
The eastern state of Bihar reimposed a full lockdown in the state capital Patna and four other districts for a week beginning Friday to curb a surge in cases.
India’s most populous state Uttar Pradesh, with nearly 230 million people, announced a weekend lockdown beginning Friday night.
Hong Kong’s Education Bureau on Friday announced the suspension of all schools from Monday after a spike in locally transmitted coronavirus cases that has fuelled fears of a renewed community spread in the city.
Schools in the Asian financial hub have been mostly shut since February, with many having switched to online learning and lessons by conference call. Many international schools are already on summer break.
The city reported 42 new cases on Thursday, of which 34 were locally transmitted, marking the second consecutive day of rising local infections.
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