Israel to impose new three-week nationwide lockdown
Austria ‘experiencing start of second wave’
Record increase in cases in Czech Republic
Protesters in Melbourne throw fruit at police
Victorian parliament shut down after security guard tests positive
Victorian police charge woman who was dragged from her car
New Zealand reports two new cases
Around 4,000 health workers demonstrated in Brussels on Sunday, calling for more spending on the healthcare system in a country that was badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
With political parties in Belgium still struggling to form a permanent government more than a year after a national election, the workers – who wore masks and carried banners with slogans such as “take care of the careworkers” – called on politicians to increase pay and healthcare funding.
Police estimated around 4,000 people took part in the protest.
Belgium has reported 9,923 Covid-19 fatalities, which puts it the third-highest in the world for deaths per 100,000 people – behind the tiny city state of San Marino and Peru, Reuters reports.
The Belgian government has said the high rate is explained by its decision to include in its tally deaths where Covid-19 is only suspected, not confirmed.
France’s health authorities on Sunday reported 7,183 new confirmed coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours.
On Saturday, the number of new daily cases in France hit a record 10,561, with infection rates rising among all age groups.
In a daily website update, the French health ministry also reported the number of arrivals in hospital for Covid-19 over the past week had risen to 2,464 compared with 2,432 recorded on Saturday.
These included 427 admissions to intensive care units over the past seven days, up from 417 in Saturday’s count, it said.
Like other European countries, France has faced a resurgence of coronavirus, leading the government on Friday to promise steps to speed up tests and toughen measures in high-infection zones to avert a return to the general lockdown imposed earlier this year.
The government has called on individuals to be more vigilant in private situations, and in an op-ed piece published in French newspaper JDD on Sunday six doctors called for people to avoid private gatherings.
The total death toll in French hospitals and nursing homes had reached 30,916, with six deaths recorded in the past 24 hours.
Israel to impose new three-week nationwide lockdown
Israel’s government has approved imposing a three-week nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus that will start on Friday, Israel’s Ynet news website and Channel 12 television reported on Sunday.
But Israel’s Ben Gurion airport will remain open, another TV channel reported, according to Reuters.
Israel’s increasing rate of coronavirus infection is bringing the country’s hospitals closer to maximum capacity and destabilising the health system, a report by Israel’s coronavirus information center said on Sunday, according to Haaretz.
The center’s daily report said that coronavirus is rapidly spreading in Israel, adding that the rate of infection during the past two weeks is the highest recorded since the outbreak began.
The Covid-19 death toll in Turkey reached 7,056 on Sunday, rising by 57 people in the last 24 hours, according to data from the health ministry.
The total number of cases in the country rose by 1,527 on Sunday, for a total of 291,162 cases, the data showed, with 258,833 people recovered from Covid-19.
Both daily deaths and cases have risen to mid-May levels in recent days.
The government has ruled out widespread lockdowns but has announced new measures recently, including banning weddings and other events and limiting the number of passengers allowed on public transport.
South Africa’s finance minister, Tito Mboweni, warned Sunday the economy could shrink by more than the 7% forecast by policymakers and the central bank for 2020, adding that public finances are “overstretched”.
The economy of Africa’s most industrialised nation contracted by more than half in the second quarter of this year, an unprecedented decline caused by coronavirus-related restrictions, AFP reports.
Looking ahead, there is a “risk that the actual GDP outcome for 2020 could be lower than previously thought,” Mboweni wrote in the local Sunday Times newspaper.
The treasury and central bank expect the economy to contract by 7.2% and 7.3% respectively this year, after the country went into a strict lockdown in March, already in recession.
Mboweni noted that public finances, already in an “unsustainable position” before the pandemic, were now “overstretched”.
“The reduction in economic activity in the second quarter has flowed through to lower tax revenue,” the minister wrote, adding that emergency tax relief to keep households and businesses afloat would compound the loss.
The government is expected to fall short of more than 300bn rand ($18bn) in tax revenue – over 6% of GDP – Mboweni said, forcing the heavily indebted country to “borrow even more”.
But he also promised reforms to climb out of the hole, writing: “[W]e must be bold in confronting what has impeded economic growth and the progress of our nation.”
He wrote that one of government’s priorities would be to ensure “adequate and reliable electricity”, backed by a commitment to unlock private investment in the public sector.
Unreliable electricity supply from state operator Eskom’s fleet of rickety coal-fired power stations is often blamed as a source of economic instability in South Africa.
The country accounts for around half of the continent’s coronavirus cases, with over 648,000 infections and 15,427 deaths recorded to date, although daily increases have been dropping since July.
The survival of the Air France-KLM group is not guaranteed if the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic continues, the Dutch finance minister, Wopke Hoekstra, warned on Sunday.
France and the Netherlands, each with a 14% share of the group, have poured out billions of euros in aid to help national carriers that virtually came to a standstill in the first half of 2020.
“It’s not a given,” Hoekstra said in an interview with Dutch public television NPO, stressing the need to cut costs.
In the spring, Paris gave Air France €7bn ($8.3bn) in loans, and The Hague granted KLM similar aid worth €3.4bn euros.
Air France-KLM announced a net loss of €2.6bn euros at the end of July, after almost zero activity in April and May due to the pandemic.
This followed a loss of €1.8bn euros in the first quarter.
The bailout for KLM must be accompanied by “a comprehensive restructuring plan” as well as commitments to reestablish performance and competitiveness.
Hoekstra said he had insisted in talks with KLM on the importance of changing direction.
Dutch press agency ANP said KLM has to develop a restructuring plan by 1 October.
Air France said it would cut almost 7,600 jobs by the end of 2022 and KLM up to 5,000 jobs, AFP reports.
The UK reported 3,330 new coronavirus infections on Sunday, slightly down from Saturday’s 3,497 and 3,539 on Friday.
The government also reported a further five deaths from Covid-19, bringing the total death toll of people who had a positive test result and died within 28 days to 41,628.
Britain is to bring in a new ban on social gatherings on Monday in a bid to curb the increasing rise in infections.
Ninety UN peacekeepers in south Lebanon have tested positive for coronavirus, a spokesman for the UNIFIL force said on Sunday, the first reported cases of the illness among them.
The confirmed cases were transferred to a special UNIFIL facility equipped to deal with Covid-19 cases, UNIFIL spokesman Andrea Tenenti said in a statement.
He said 88 of those infected belonged to the same contingent, but he did not specify the nationalities of the 90 peacekeepers.
“We have undertaken robust contact tracing, and applied a thorough regime of testing and isolation” to prevent a larger outbreak, he said.
Some 45 countries contribute peacekeepers to UNIFIL, which was set up in 1978 to patrol the border between Lebanon and Israel which are technically at war.
In August, the UN extended the peace mission’s mandate by one year but reduced the force’s troop capacity from 15,000 to 13,000.
Tenenti said that UNIFIL’s operations along the Lebanon-Israel border are not affected by the new virus cases.
Lebanon has seen a spike in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases since a 4 August explosion ripped through the Beirut port, killing more than 190 people and ravaging swathes of the capital.
The small Mediterranean country has recorded a total of 23,669 Covid-19 cases, including 239 deaths since an outbreak began in February.
On Saturday, authorities announced 22 coronavirus cases at the Roumieh prison, the country’s largest detention centre which has long been infamous for the poor conditions in some of its blocks, including overcrowding and harsh treatment.
A further five people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital in England, bringing the total number of confirmed reported deaths in hospitals to 29,661, NHS England said on Sunday.
The, patients, aged between 67 and 86, all had known underlying health conditions. The dates of the deaths were 11-12 September.
With increasing cases of Covid-19, Ethiopia has opened a facility to produce kits to test for the coronavirus and says its researchers are working to develop and test a vaccine.
The company producing the testing kits is a joint-venture with a Chinese company called BGI Health Ethiopia.
Ethiopia’s number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 has risen to nearly 64,000, causing almost 1,000 deaths, according to government figures.
Ethiopia also today opened a field hospital to hold up to 200 severely affected Covid-19 patients, which will start admitting patients immediately.
Ethiopia has conducted more than 1.1m tests, making it the African country that has carried out the third-highest number of tests, according to Ethiopian health officials. The country is struggling with a shortage of testing kits, ventilators, and intensive care beds, they said.
Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, said during the factory’s opening the lab would produce 10m testing kits per year, which will be used in the country and exported, with priority given to other African countries.
The factory will also provide commercial laboratory services for 3m transit passengers at Bole International airport and in Addis Ababa city, the prime minister stated, adding this will boost the testing capacity of Ethiopia and other African countries.
Abiy also announced Ethiopian researchers have been working to develop a vaccine, which is entering a laboratory trial stage.
The local production of the testing kits will have a huge impact in boosting Ethiopia’s ability to combat the disease, Yared Agidew, head of Ethiopias main Covid-19 treatment centre in the capital, Addis Ababa, told the Associated Press. “By conducting more tests, we will be able to identify positive cases in the community and take appropriate measures to control the spread,” he said.
Ethiopia’s health minister, Lia Tadesse, said community transmissions are the main cause of the increasing cases.
It is mostly related to how communities are behaving and the existence of other risk facts like living in congested settings, she said. Ethiopian migrants returning from Middle Eastern countries are not seen as a cause of the rising numbers of cases, she said, explaining that all returnees must go through a quarantine period.
A total of 244 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Scotland in the past 24 hours, the latest Scottish government figures show – the highest daily figure since 6 May. The figure constitutes 3.7% of newly-tested individuals.
Cumulatively, 22,679 people have tested positive in Scotland, up from 22,435 the day before.
No deaths of confirmed Covid-19 patients have been recorded in the past 24 hours and the number of fatalities remains at 2,499.
There are 259 people in hospital confirmed to have the virus, down by two in 24 hours. Of these patients, seven were in intensive care, down one.
Here’s a summary of the latest developments:
- The Czech Republic reported its largest daily increase in new coronavirus infections for a third straight day, according to health ministry data. It was the fifth day in a row with new infections above 1,000 as the country of 10.7 million reports a surge in cases that is among the fastest in the European Union.
- Austria is experiencing the start of a second wave of coronavirus infections, its chancellor warned, as cases rise in line with other EU countries. From Friday to Saturday, the Alpine nation of nearly 9 million people reported 869 new cases – more than half of those in the capital, Vienna.
- India has reported 94,372 new coronavirus cases, taking the total past 4.7 million. The daily increase was down on the record global spike in the previous 24 hours of 97,570 new cases and came after three days of recording more than 95,000 new cases. Infections have been growing faster in India than anywhere in the world.
- Police arrested 74 people at an anti-lockdown protest in Melbourne, Australia. Some demonstrators threw fruit at police on a second successive day of protest. On Saturday, 14 people were arrested and at least 50 fined when about 100 people demonstrated against coronavirus restrictions in Melbourne.
The European Central Bank (ECB) president, Christine Lagarde, said today there could “no complacency” in the battle to recover from the pandemic-induced downturn, urging governments to support central bank efforts with fiscal spending.
Although the eurozone was bouncing back from the lockdowns that devastated economic activity earlier this year, Lagarde said the recovery remained “uneven” and “uncertain” as several nations grapple with a renewed rise in coronavirus infections.
The ECB “continues to stand ready to adjust all of its instruments” to help steer the 19-nation currency club through the crisis, Lagarde said in an online speech addressing a meeting of Arab central bankers.
But she reiterated that eurozone governments had to share the load through public spending and investment. The former International Monetary Fund chief said:
Continued expansionary fiscal policies are vital to avoid excessive job shedding and support household incomes until the economic recovery is more robust.
She urged governments to quickly thrash out the remaining details on the European Union’s 750-billion-euro coronavirus recovery fund “so that the funds can start flowing on schedule in January 2021”.
The ECB itself has taken unprecedented action in recent months to cushion the blow from the pandemic fallout, rolling out a 1.35 trillion euro emergency bond-buying scheme while keeping interest rates at record lows and offering ultra-cheap loans to banks.
The aim is to keep borrowing costs low to boost the economy and push up inflation.
But the ECB’s efforts have been complicated in recent weeks by the rapid rise of the euro against the dollar.
A stronger euro makes imports cheaper, keeping the lid on consumer prices, while exports become less competitive, hurting growth prospects.
Eurozone inflation even turned negative in August for the first time in four years at -0.2%, far off the ECB’s inflation target of just under 2.0%.
Lagarde acknowledged the concerns, saying that “near-term price pressures will also remain subdued due to the recent appreciation of the euro exchange rate”.
“When it comes to meeting our price stability goal, there is and there will be no complacency,” Lagarde vowed.
The comments were stronger than on Thursday when, after the ECB’s regular monetary policy meeting, Lagarde said the Frankfurt institution was “carefully” monitoring the soaring euro.
Many analysts expect the ECB to unleash more monetary stimulus before the year is over, possibly by extending or increasing its massive emergency bond-buying scheme.
An Israeli cabinet minister, who heads an ultra-orthodox Jewish party in Benjamin Netanyahu’s conservative coalition, has tendered his resignation in protest at a looming coronavirus lockdown. Housing minister Yaakov Litzman argued the restrictions would unfairly impede religious celebrations of Jewish holidays.
The rules – the most extensive Israel will have imposed since a lockdown that ran from late March to early May – are expected to go into effect on Friday, the Jewish new year Rosh Hashana, and span into the Yom Kippur fast day on 27 September.
Litzman said in his resignation letter:
This wrongs and scorns hundreds of thousands of citizens. Where were you until now? Why have the Jewish holidays become a convenient address for tackling the coronavirus?
Under law, Litzman’s resignation takes effect in 48 hours. Although a sign of strained relations between Netanyahu and his ultra-Orthodox political partners, Litzman’s move was unlikely to have any immediate effect on the stability of the veteran leader’s governing coalition.
In remarks to the cabinet as it convened to vote on the lockdown, Netanyahu voiced regret at Litzman’s move but added:
We have to move on, to make the decisions necessary for Israel in the coronavirus era, and that is what we will do in this session.
Israel, which has a population of 9 million, has reported 153,217 coronavirus cases and 1,103 deaths. With new cases topping 3,000 daily in recent weeks, authorities worry that the health system could be overwhelmed.
Interior minister Aryeh Deri, who heads another ultra-Orthodox Jewish party, came out in favour of the restrictions, saying in a video posted on Twitter that not abiding by them over the upcoming holidays would be tantamount to murder.