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BBC Middle East correspondent
Israel has recorded another record high in daily coronavirus infections – with 3,904 new cases on Wednesday.
The coronavirus ‘czar’ Prof Ronni Gamzu – himself in quarantine after a colleague tested positive – will make new recommendations at a cabinet meeting with a national lockdown said to be back on the table.
Israel was lauded in the Spring for tackling the epidemic with early action that contained the spread of infection and saw a very low death rate compared to other countries.
Now the government is coming in for widespread criticism for losing control. A top scientist warned on Thursday that a crisis is “within touching distance” at some hospitals.
Four hundred and seventy four patients are seriously ill while more than 1,000 people have died with the virus since the outbreak started.
The cabinet recently imposed school closures and new nighttime restrictions in the worst affected towns. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said his government is doing “everything to maintain the economy and safeguard health and lives”.
Many experts believe plans to roll out mass rapid testing this winter is unrealistic. Piloting is still taking place to see if the
technologies work – millions of tests would then need to be manufactured and
The focus on this “moonshot” plan is perhaps a distraction
from the difficult decisions the country faces.
The level of infection is still low – despite the recent
But do not expect them to stay this way.
Respiratory viruses tend to do better in the autumn and
winter because of the colder weather and fact people are indoors more.
Ministers will then face the choice of more restrictions to
try to curb the virus in the knowledge these will damage people’s health in
other ways as well as harming education and the economy.
Or let the virus spread, while focusing efforts on
protecting the vulnerable – that means protecting care homes and perhaps
Lockdown bought us time, but simply deferred the problem.
Progress has been made in the past six months – there are better
treatments, more testing and a network of contact tracers – but perhaps not as
much as hoped.
The UK – like all nations – faces a tricky act of balancing
Copyright: Getty Images
Insurance market Lloyd’s of London has said it expects to pay out up to £5bn ($6.5bn) for coronavirus-related claims.
Its chief executive John Neal said the first half of the year had been “exceptionally challenging”.
Insurers around the world have paid out on event cancellation, travel, trade credit and business interruption policies due to the virus.
Read more from our Business team here.
Singapore will start handing out TraceTogether contact-tracing devices nationwide next week.
The Bluetooth-enabled tokens are aimed at people who do not own or prefer not to use a mobile phone.
The free devices have unique QR codes and a battery life of up to nine months.
This comes as Singapore strengthens its contact-tracing network to prepare for larger gatherings to take place as restrictions are slowly eased.
A pilot scheme to use either the free tokens or the mobile app to check in at certain venues will also start next month. The app has been downloaded 2.4 million times.
Resty Woro Yuniar
BBC News, Jakarta
Indonesia’s capital Jakarta will re-implement stricter social restrictions, starting on Monday, as the number of Covid-19 cases have soared in the past month.
Governor Anies Baswedan said on Wednesday night that 77% of isolation beds in the capital are currently occupied and the city will run out of beds by 17 September. He also said that Covid-19 intensive care units in the capital would be fully occupied by 15 September if cases continue to increase.
Stricter social restrictions will see office workers working from home; shopping centres and places of worship closed, and bigger scrutiny of traffic around the capital’s borders.
This will also mean that non-essential industries will be shut down again, dealing another blow to an already-reeling economy that saw its biggest GDP contraction in more than two decades in the second quarter this year.
These new measures will produced mixed feelings among Jakartans. Some agree with the strict social restrictions, but others, particularly those whose daily incomes have been affected, disagree. A large number of people are still not observing social distancing or mask wearing.
As of Thursday, Jakarta has recorded over 50,000 Covid-19 cases, the highest number in Indonesia, and over 1,300 virus-linked deaths. Overall, Indonesia has recorded more than 207,000 Covid-19 cases and more than 8,400 virus-linked deaths, the highest coronavirus mortality rate in Southeast Asia.
Here’s more analysis on “Operation Moonshot” – the UK government’s plan to see millions of coronavirus tests carried out daily.
England’s deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries says there will be technical solutions to allow for mass testing, but it is for politicians to weigh up the costs of any new programme.
Dr Harries said that the relevant technology would become available in the coming months, but problems such as false positives would need to be solved before any new test is rolled out.
She said “whole mass population testing” is quite different from the testing regime available to those with symptoms in the UK at the moment.
“The tricky thing with this is not so much the technology… the issue actually is how it gets used in practice.”
“Although testing is really important… the issue is that if people have symptoms they need to come out of society in order to prevent disease transmission.”
The risk of dying from coronavirus “doubles every six years”, Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, a statistician at the University of Cambridge, has said.
“A 20-year-old has double the risk of a 14-year-old,” he told the BBC, adding: “It’s like a horrible form of compound interest.”
“The real danger points, in a sense, are intergenerational meetings. At the moment, the people who are getting the virus are the 20-29s – if 5,000 get it, there may be one death if you’re unlucky, there will be other sort of long-term conditions as well.
“But if 5,000 people my age – 67 – get it, there would be about 75 deaths, and for people older, in their 80s, it would be 10 times that many.
“So it shows the crucial care is where the generations meet, and I think what this shows is that, for the young, anyone over 55 should be treated with caution, respect, in terms of masks and the distance and so on.”
Spiegelhalter also said Boris Johnson’s “Operation Moonshot” project – which would see millions of UK-wide tests carried out daily – could lead to hundreds of thousands of people being unnecessarily labelled as having coronavirus.
“Statisticians are just sort of banging their heads on the wall at this, because mass screening always seems like a good idea in any disease – ‘Oh yes, let’s test everybody’. But the huge danger is false positives – no tests are perfect, it is not a simple yes/no thing.”
More now on a story that’s dominating news outlets in the US.
President Donald Trump knew Covid-19 was deadlier than the flu before it hit the country, but decided to “play it down” in his public comments because he didn’t want to “create a panic”, according to a new book and taped conversations with Bob Woodward.
Woodward, who broke the Watergate scandal and is one of the nation’s most respected journalists, interviewed Trump 18 times from December to July.
Trump is quoted Woodward’s book Rage as telling him the virus was “deadly stuff”, in early February, before the first US death was confirmed.
However, in the weeks that followed, Trump publicly implied the flu was more dangerous than Covid-19, and said: “Just stay calm. It will go away.”
After details of the book emerged, Trump’s Democratic rival, Joe Biden, described Trump’s approach as a “dereliction of duty” and “a life-and-death betrayal of the American people”.
However, Trump has defended his position, saying on Wednesday: “I don’t want people to be frightened, I don’t want to create panic… certainly I’m not going to drive this country or the world into a frenzy.”
BBC News, Delhi
India has confirmed another record number of daily infections as it recorded 95,735 new cases in the last 24 hours.
But the latest spike comes amid a week which has been dotted with daily infections over 90,000, representative of just how large the caseload is becoming in India.
The rising numbers are partly explained by states across the country actively ramping up their testing – more than one million tests are being carried out every day, according to the health ministry.
But with the country continuing to open up, it’s not surprising that cases are mounting. The capital, Delhi, just allowed bars and pubs to re-open this week and schools across India are preparing to open their doors later this month.
With 4.4 million cases, India has the second-highest caseload after the US. But the government and some experts point to the country’s high recovery rate as a source of good news. For every 100 confirmed with the virus, nearly 78 have recovered. Consequently, active cases in the country remain low, taking up about 20.6% of total cases.
UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps says that he believes the majority of people will abide by the new “rule of six” in England, the restricts gatherings to no more than six people from Monday.
“People actually generally want to do the right thing, nobody wants to spread this around,” he told the BBC.
The creation of coronavirus “marshals” will remind people to wear face coverings and maintain distancing with the police able to enforce the “rule of six” if needed, he said, adding: “This is not going back into a full lockdown.”
Lisa Nandy, shadow foreign secretary for the opposition Labour party, told BBC Breakfast she believed the government was right to introduce tighter coronavirus restrictions in England.
However, she added that the timing could confuse people – with restrictions brought in with another weekend to go before they begin.
“Most people want to do the right thing but they also need to understand what that is,” she said.
“I think most of the public do understand that as difficult as this is we do have to make sure as we go into winter, and as the NHS is preparing for winter flu and other outbreaks, that we’ve got to make sure the NHS is protected.”
Professor Neil Ferguson, a leading epidemiologist whose modelling work was used by the UK government before the lockdown in March, has told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that coronavirus infections will rise among all age groups – not just the young.
Prof Ferguson says contact rates have increased across all age groups in the past three weeks. “So we would expect… that infection will start propagating across all age groups,” he said.
He pointed toward the US, where places like Florida and California saw an increase in cases among younger people followed by an uptick in deaths.
Prof Ferguson says new measures announced in England “will take some weeks to have an effect” – he put the timescale around two to three weeks for case numbers to be impacted by the new rules on social gatherings.
The increase in case numbers seen this week does not account for the reopening of schools, he added.
In recent weeks, the government had tried to encourage workers to go back to the office – but Prof Ferguson said this was a tricky balance.
“I’m still working from home, many people I know are still working from home, and certainly I think we should hesitate and maybe pause the headlong rush to get everybody back into offices.
“But some people have to work [away from home] and I completely understand the concerns in many quarters that everyone working at home has an economic impact, especially on city centres.”
French authorities are watching infection rates in about 20 cities, according to the head of France’s scientific council, Jean-François Delfraissy. In the past 24 hours 8,577 new infections have been announced and the head of the Bordeaux area in the south-west, Alain Anziani, says there’s a “strong risk” of a local lockdown. But Mr Delfraissy says everything must be done to avoid more lockdowns: “The stakes are as much about society as health.” Elsewhere in Europe:
- Wearing masks in the Czech Republic is compulsory in enclosed spaces again from today – more than 1,000 coronavirus cases have been declared for a second day in a row
- Spain has reported another 4,410 infections as schools restart today in several areas. Masks are obligatory for anyone aged six and over
- Portugal has registered 646 new infections – its highest since 20 April – and ministers will decide today on new rules for a key moment next week, when children return to class.
As we mentioned earlier, the global death toll from the coronavirus has passed 900,000, while the number of confirmed infections is nearing 28 million, based on a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
The US is still by far the worst hit country, with more than 6.3m cases, and 190,000 deaths – more than a fifth of the total.
Brazil is in second place with more than 128,000 deaths, followed by India with over 75,000 dead.
Mexico and the UK have the fourth and fifth most deaths – 69,000 and 41,000 respectively.
India in particular has been recorded more cases, and deaths, than other countries in recent days – even as some social distancing measures are being lifted.
More now on the new social distancing rules in England, announced yesterday, that will restrict gatherings to six people from Monday.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps tells BBC Breakfast the new rule came about after extensive discussions with medical and scientific advisers.
He concedes the advice is much simpler than previous guidance, adding “you need to set some rules and you need to stick by them”.
It also means that he won’t be able to invite both his parents to his home from Monday, because there are five people in his household.
Asked about gatherings such as art classes or fitness classes, Shapps says that businesses will have put in measures to ensure they are Covid-secure.
“A professionally organised thing would be suitable but we do ask people to be very sensible and very smart about not gathering in groups more than six where it is not in a formal Covid-secure environment, like a business.”
Shapps adds that if the public follows the new advice, the R number – the rate at which an infected person passes the virus to someone else – will come down below 1.
“We know for certain it is somewhere above 1 because it is growing,” he says.
Meanwhile, here is a quick catch-up on coronavirus news in the UK today:
- Scientists and health professionals have raised doubts about Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s “Operation Moonshot” plan for mass coronavirus testing – which he hopes will give millions of people results within minutes
- A leaked Whitehall document puts the cost of the plan at £100 billion – almost the cost of the entire NHS England budget, according to the BBC’s Health Editor Hugh Pym
- Businesses and other public settings where people meet socially in England will have to record contact details of anyone on their premises from 18 September to tackle the spread of coronavirus
- Indoor venues in Scotland, including concert halls and theatres, will learn later if they can reopen from Monday – Nicola Sturgeon is due to announce any further changes to lockdown restrictions at her coronavirus briefing
- A private company has agreed to provide Exeter University with thousands of coronavirus tests that give results in 24 hours. The deal is thought to be the first of its kind in the UK
- Christmas is still a few months away – but there are concerns that social distancing restrictions could still be in place then, making it difficult for families to gather to celebrate
We’re also expecting to hear from Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, who is facing media questions this morning, as well as Jenny Harries, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England.
Thanks for joining our rolling coverage of the global
coronavirus pandemic – it’s Helier Cheung, George Bowden and Yaroslav Lukov
with you today in London.
Our team and BBC reporters around the globe will be bringing you
all the latest developments – so stay with us for regular updates.
To help you catch up,
here are some of the main headlines from across the world:
- Global deaths linked to Covid-19 have now passed 900,000, according to Johns Hopkins University – with the US making up more than a fifth of deaths
- US President Donald Trump admitted earlier this year that he knew Covid-19 was deadly – but said he wanted to “play down” the virus to avoid panic, according to a new book and recording
- Shipping coronavirus vaccines around the world will be the “largest transport challenge ever” and require the equivalent of 8,000 Boeing 747s, according to the airline industry.
- Indonesia’s capital Jakarta will bring back social distancing measures, with the governor warning of an “emergency” situation as hospitals fill up
The Japan Sumo Association says 18 wrestlers
from one stable tested positive, meaning that the entire squad will miss the
Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament starting this weekend