Author: Editor - World News

Coronavirus cases surge in occupied West Bank

A relative mourns as others attend the burial of a Palestinian man who died after contracting COVID-19 in Hebron, occupied West Bank [Mussa Qawasma/Reuters]

Hebron, Occupied West Bank – The number of COVID-19 cases in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza reached 13,457 on Friday as a surge in infections in the second half of July saw the total number of reported cases double.
According to the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis at Imperial College London, the rate at which the disease is transmitted in the occupied West Bank has reached 1.58, meaning that every two infected individuals are likely to spread the virus to three more.
The Palestinian Authority (PA), which exercises limited control over some areas of the occupied West Bank, has struggled to contain the spread of the virus.
When the PA eased a lockdown following street protests in late May, there were less than 130 confirmed coronavirus infections. It has since reimposed a partial lockdown in response to the increase in reported cases.
However, spotty adherence to social distancing guidelines remained widespread across the West Bank, while a lack of control over borders and the movement of people have elevated the problems faced by the Ramallah-based administration.

Hebron is the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in the occupied West Bank [Ibrahim Husseini/Al Jazeera]

New epicentre
Of the 8,796 active cases, more than half of have been reported in Hebron governorate in the southern West Bank.
On a recent weekend in Hebron city, with a population of more than 750,000, the local authorities appeared ineffective or unwilling to enforce a routine lockdown. Vehicle traffic in and out of the city flowed unhindered, and many businesses were open.
“I decided to open my shop when I saw that by noon everybody was open,” Ahmad al-Qaisi, an upholstery retailer from Hebron told Al Jazeera.
In late June, as it became clear that Hebron was the epicentre of the outbreak, the health ministry directed more staff and supplies to the area. A new hospital in Dura, near Hebron city, was repurposed upon opening to exclusively treat COVID-19 patients.
“From the start, they brought the hardest cases here that need intensive care,” Dr Muhammad Ribie, the administrator of the hospital, told Al Jazeera. “Of course, it was a big challenge for us,” he said.
The hospital at Dura was first supplied with six ventilators, 10 intensive care unit beds, and 100 beds for minor cases, Ribie said. After a visit by the Palestinian health minister, Dr Mai Keleh, six more ventilators were sent along with 10 more ICU beds as cases in the region surged.
The Dura hospital was also equipped with an oxygen generator, but Ribie said an additional generator is still needed to meet the demand.
“The treatment of the majority of the corona patients is by oxygen,” Ribie said. “If the generator cannot produce enough, we switch to oxygen tubes and those run out fast and then we have to send them to Hebron to be refilled. This is not practical,” he added.
In early July, as the number of cases in the Hebron region was surging, the demand for test kits resulted in a shortage that led authorities to temporarily use serological testing instead. The health ministry replenished test kit supplies the next day, but public anger mounted.

A group of nurses prepare to leave the Dura Hospital after the end of their shift [Ibrahim Husseini/Al Jazeera]

‘Community transmission’
A local health official who is privy to the COVID-19 situation in the West Bank told Al Jazeera on condition of anonymity that the number of daily detected cases is worrying. During the last two weeks of July, newly detected cases averaged around 500 a day.
“This is a high figure when we think about the low number of tests performed,” he said. “We’ve been performing around 35,000 tests for every one million people, and this is not enough.”
“Israel ran far more tests … The UAE ran 490,000 for every one million people,” he said. “We are short of money.”
At the beginning of the health crisis, the PA struggled to limit the spread of the disease in the West Bank via workers who travel to and from Israel. There are 10 official crossings between the West Bank and Israel, and 300 more unofficial crossings, Mai Keleh said in a recent TV interview.
The PA does not have the resources to control labour traffic for all those points of entries. Also, many of the unofficial crossings are located in Area C of the West Bank where the PA has no control.
However, the situation has far worsened now. The majority of the recent transmissions in the West Bank are “community transmissions,” the Palestinian health minister said recently.
The health official told Al Jazeera that these account for “more than 61 percent of the cases”.
Economic impact
The economic fallout from coronavirus has been severe, with the ministry of economy estimating losses from the standstill at more than three billion dollars.
Palestinian Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayeh this week announced agreements with the Palestinian Monetary Authority on several measures to ease the economic strain.
Banks were ordered not to slap fees on returned checks. In addition, they were also instructed to not deduct loan payments owed by their clients when the PA transfers salaries to its employees.
According to data from the Palestinian Monetary Authority, the value of returned checks in the West Bank has soared in recent months to $389m.
Ahmad Quaisi, the young upholstery merchant from Hebron, believed the policy has a downside because it has encouraged some to abuse it.
But for now, he said, “We’ve transitioned from accepting checks to cash; we sell on a cash basis, only.”
Before the pandemic, he imported as many as 10 containers a month of merchandise from China, Turkey and Europe. That has changed, he said, as fewer customers are buying from his shop.
“Importing has been scaled back. The purchasing power is gone. Now, I import two containers a month.”

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Vietnam recorded its second coronavirus death as the country battles a new outbreak of the virus, which emerged in the city of Danang.

Spain reported a second day of 1,000-plus coronavirus infections, the highest since the nation lifted its lockdown in June.

Here are the latest updates:

20:55 GMT – EU in talks to secure Sanofi deal for virus vaccine
Sanofi SA and GlaxoSmithKline Plc said they are in advanced discussions to supply up to 300 million doses of an experimental COVID-19 vaccine for the 27-country European Union.
Armed with an emergency fund of more than 2 billion euros ($2.4bn), the European Commission wants to strike deals with up to six drugmakers for their vaccines for their 450 million citizens against the coronavirus that has killed 674,000 people worldwide.
The Commission said the aim of the talks with Sanofi was to clinch an advance purchase deal.
Sanofi is working on two vaccine projects including one in partnership with GlaxoSmithKline.
20:10 GMT – Child care closures disproportionally affect women
The pandemic upended child care plans for many parents in the US, forcing them – particularly mothers – to grapple with tough choices that are only becoming more difficult as states push return-to-work policies to try to revive the battered economy.
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19:20 GMT – US COVID-19 vaccine trials will exclude pregnant women for now
The first two COVID-19 vaccines to enter large-scale US trials will not be tested in pregnant women this year, raising questions about how this vulnerable population will be protected from the coronavirus, researchers told Reuters.

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Moderna and Pfizer, which has partnered with Germany’s BioNTech, this week separately launched clinical trials that use a new and unproven gene-based technology.
Both companies are requiring proof of a negative pregnancy test and a commitment to using birth control from women of childbearing age who enroll.
Drugmakers say they first need to make sure the vaccines are safe and effective more generally.
In addition, US regulators require that drugmakers conduct safety studies in pregnant animals before the vaccines are tested in pregnant women to ensure they don’t harm the fetus or lead to miscarriage.
19:10 GMT – Fauci ‘cautiously’ optimistic 2021 will see COVID-19 vaccine
Appearing before a House panel investigating the United States’ response to the pandemic, Dr Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIH), expressed “cautious” optimism that once a coronavirus vaccine is approved as safe and effective, Americans should have widespread access within a reasonable time.
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18:20 GMT – Coronavirus infected hundreds of children at US summer camp
Hundreds of children contracted the coronavirus at a summer camp in the US state of Georgia last month, health authorities said, adding to a growing body of evidence that minors are both susceptible to infection and vectors of transmission.

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The virus infected at least 260 of the 597 attendees, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, adding that the true number was probably higher since test results were only available for 58 percent of the group.
The camp ignored the CDC’s advice that all participants in summer camps wear cloth masks – requiring them only for staff.
It did however adhere to a state executive order requiring all participants to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken 12 days or less before their arrival.
Other precautionary measures included physical distancing, frequent disinfection of surfaces, keeping children among the same small group, also known as “cohorting,” and staggering the use of communal spaces.
18:05 GMT – Number of new French infections above 1,300 for third day in a row
French health authorities reported 1,346 new confirmed coronavirus infections, which took the total to 187,919 as new cases are above 1,300 per day for the third day in a row, the highest since late April.
In a statement, the health ministry also said that the number of people in intensive care units due to the disease fell by a further 10 to 371.

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On Thursday, that figure had increased by just one, which was the first daily increase after falling every day since April 9.
In the past 24 hours, 11 people died from the virus infection, taking the total to 30,265. In the past three days the number of dead per day was 16, 15 and 14.
18:00 GMT – WHO reports record daily increase in global cases, up over 292,000
The World Health Organization reported a record increase in global coronavirus cases, with the total rising by 292,527.
The biggest increases were from the United States, Brazil, India and South Africa, according to a daily report. Deaths rose by 6,812. The four countries have dominated global headlines with large outbreaks.
The previous WHO record for new cases was 284,196 on July 24. Deaths rose by 9,753 on July 24, the second largest one-day increase ever. Deaths have been averaging 5,200 a day in July, up from an average of 4,600 a day in June.
17:50 GMT – Florida, Mississippi report record increases in deaths
Florida reported a record increase in new COVID-19 deaths for a fourth day in a row,, with 257 fatalities, according to the state health department.
Mississippi also reported a record increase in deaths, with fatalities rising by 52. That was a record rise for the state for the second day in a row.
Overall in the United States, deaths have increased by nearly 25,000 in July to 153,000 total lives lost since the pandemic started.

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Florida also reported 9,007 new cases, bringing its total infections to over 470,000, the second highest in the country behind California. Florida’s total death toll rose to nearly 7,000, the eighth highest in the nation, according to a Reuters tally.
Florida is among at least 18 states that saw cases more than double in July.
Florida reported record one-day increases in cases three times during the month, with the highest on July 12, at 15,300 new cases in a single day.
17:30 GMT – Greece extends mask-wearing requirement as infections flare up
Greece will make mask-wearing compulsory in all indoor public spaces and also in outdoor spaces where proper social distancing cannot be observed, its deputy civil protection minister said on Friday, following a further rise in COVID-19 infections.
Greece reported 78 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 infections, its highest tally in about two months. Overall, it has so far confirmed 4,447 COVID-19 cases with 202 deaths, a relatively low number compared to many European countries, after imposing an early lockdown in the spring.
Health authorities made mask-wearing compulsory for consumers at supermarkets 10 days ago and on Tuesday moved to extend the measure to more indoor public spaces to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.
16:40 GMT – Namibia to close schools, limit public gatherings as cases surge
Namibian schools will be suspended for the second time in four months next week, while limits on public gatherings will be tightened further to 100 from 250 amid surging cases, President Hage Geingob said.
In a televised speech, Geingob said the decision to suspend schools from August 4 for 28 days came after considering the risks associated with the spread of the virus.


The measure affects early childhood development, pre-primary, primary and the first two grades of high school.
Namibia has 2,129 confirmed cases and 10 deaths with the country’s rate of daily new cases now the fourth highest on the continent following South Africa, Eswatini and Gabon, according to Geingob.
16:30 GMT – Deep Washington divide on coronavirus aid as jobless benefit to expire
US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said talks with the White House on a new coronavirus aid bill were not yet on a path toward reaching a deal, hours before the expiration of a federal unemployment benefit that has been an essential lifeline for millions of Americans.


Asked why she rejected a proposal from Republican President Donald Trump’s administration for a one-week extension of the $600 enhanced weekly jobless payment, Pelosi told reporters that such a move would occur “if you are on a path” toward a deal.
“We’re not,” Pelosi told a news conference.
However, negotiations were to continue on Friday between White House officials and congressional Democrats. Pelosi, the nation’s top elected Democrat, said she thought Congress and the White House eventually will come together on legislation, although she gave no timetable.
16:15 GMT – Vietnam ministry reports second COVID-19 death
The 61-year-old man died at a hospital in Danang city, where Vietnam last week detected its first domestically transmitted coronavirus infections in more than three months, the ministry said in a statement.
The country, which has recorded 546 coronavirus infections since its first cases were detected in January, reported its first coronavirus death earlier on Friday. 
15:20 GMT – Impact of coronavirus will be felt for decades to come, WHO says
The global coronavirus outbreak is the sort of disaster whose effects will last far into the future, World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
“The pandemic is a once-in-a-century health crisis, the effects of which will be felt for decades to come,” Tedros told a meeting of the WHO’s emergency committee, according to remarks released by the agency.

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The pandemic has killed more than 670,000 people since emerging in Wuhan, China, with more than 17 million cases diagnosed.
The United States, Brazil, Mexico and Britain have been particularly hard hit in recent weeks by the disease COVID-19, as their governments have struggled to come up with an effective response.
Economies have been been hit by lockdown restrictions introduced to restrict its spread, while many regions are fearful of a second wave.
15:15 GMT – Three crew members on Norway cruise ship hospitalised with COVID-19
Three members of the crew of Norwegian cruise vessel Roald Amundsen have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the University Hospital of North Norway told Reuters.
All 160 crew members have been quarantined, while passengers who have travelled with the ship would be told to self-isolate, ship operator Hurtigruten said.
The vessel had close to 200 passengers on board when it arrived at the Arctic port of Tromsoe early on Friday, all of whom had disembarked, public broadcaster NRK reported. 
15:10 GMT – India’s Tata motors posts major loss as lockdowns hit sales
India’s Tata Motors reported a major quarterly loss as coronavirus lockdowns hit sales in domestic and international markets including Europe and China.

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Mumbai-headquartered Tata Motors, the parent of British luxury marque Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), announced a consolidated net loss of 84.39bn rupees ($1.13bn) for the quarter ended June 30 against a loss of 36.98bn rupees a year earlier.
A survey of analysts by Bloomberg had predicted the quarterly loss to come in at $1.28bn.
Tata’s luxury car unit JLR faced sales challenges in its key markets China and Europe, worsened by the virus spread and supply chain disruptions.
14:55 GMT – Spain diagnosis 1,525 new cases in new post-lockdown record
Spain’s health ministry reported 1,525 new coronavirus cases, marking the biggest jump since a national lockdown was lifted in June and beating the previous day’s record rise.
It is third day in a row Spain has diagnosed more than 1,000 infections.
Cumulative cases, which also include results from antibody tests on people who may have recovered increased to 288,522 from 285,430, the ministry said. 
14:10 GMT – Italy travel linked to 1 in 4 first virus cases outside China
People who had visited Italy accounted for more than a quarter of the first reported cases of the new coronavirus outside China, according to a new study that found most initial infections were linked to just three countries.
Researchers from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention used publicly-available data to trace the early spread of COVID-19 to dozens of affected countries in the 11 weeks before the World Health Organization declared it a pandemic.

In Italy, 85.6 percent of those who have died were over 70 [Luca Bruno/AP]

They found that 27 percent of all the first reported cases were people with travel links to Italy, while 22 percent had been to China and 11 percent had travelled from Iran.
The study, which was published in the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases this week, found that overall three quarters of the first cases in affected countries were linked to recent travel.
13:45 GMT – Philips says it did not profiteer on ventilators amid coronavirus
Dutch healthcare equipment company Philips saidit had not sought to profit by raising the price of the ventilators it manufactures during the coronavirus crisis.
In a statement, Chief Executive Officer Frans van Houten said the company was responding to a report issued by the US Congress’s House Subcommitte on Economic and Consumer policy.
“I would like to make clear that at no occasion, Philips has raised prices to benefit from the crisis situation,” he said. 
13:35 GMT – Fauci testifies before coronavirus panel
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious disease expert, will testfy before a coronavirus subcommittee in Congress, weeks after President Donald Trump’s administration first refused to let him address the panel.
Fauci’s testimony comes at the end of a week when the pandemic’s tragic toll on the country has become far clearer.

US records a coronavirus death every minute as toll tops 150,000

The United States on Wednesday experienced its 150,000th death from the disease – more than any other country – and data on Thursday showing a deep economic plunge.
Democrats said the Trump administration initially prevented Fauci from testifying to the panel by saying he was unavailable for the entire month of July and relented only after House Majority Whip James Clyburn wrote to Vice President Mike Pence.
12:32 GMT – Germany adds three virus-hit Spanish regions to quarantine list
Germany has added three northern Spanish regions to its list of high-risk destinations, meaning anyone arriving from those areas will have to produce a negative coronavirus test or go into quarantine for 14 days.
Germany’s foreign ministry said it had issued a travel warning for the regions of Catalonia, Navarre and Aragon following a spike in COVID-19 cases there.  
The move comes after Germany’s Robert Koch Institute for disease control added the three regions to its high-risk list.
11:55 GMT – England to require face coverings in cinema and worship places
People in England will be required to wear face masks or other face coverings in cinemas, places of worship, museums and art galleries from August 8, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.
“We will also extend the requirement to wear a face covering to other indoor settings where you’re likely to come into contact with people you do not normally meet, such as museums, galleries, cinemas and places of worship,” Johnson said.
Face coverings are already required on public transport and, more recently, in shops. 
11:32 GMT – UK’s Johnson postpones next stage of lockdown lifting as infections rise
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he will postpone the next stage of lockdown easing for at least two weeks due to a pick-up in COVID-19 infection rates.
“On Saturday 1 August we had hoped to reopen in England a number of the higher-risk settings that had remained closed … Today I am afraid we are postponing those changes for at least a fortnight,” Johnson said at a news conference.
“I know that the steps we are taking will be a real blow to many people … I am really, really sorry about that but we simply cannot take the risk.” 

A group of National Health Service (NHS) staff and campaigners held a vigil with lanterns for 65,000 people who died due to the novel coronavirus pandemic in the UK [Ilyas Tayfun Salci/Anadolu]

11:05 GMT – Scotland warns against travel to COVID-hit areas of northern England
Scotland’s government has advised against non-essential travel to Greater Manchester and other parts of northern England which face new lockdown restrictions due to an upsurge in cases.
“I strongly advise anyone planning to travel to areas affected in the north of England, or anyone planning to travel to Scotland from those same areas, to cancel their plans,” Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said.
10:12 GMT – COVID infections on the rise in England, survey shows
There has likely been a slight increase in the number of people in England testing positive for coronavirus in recent weeks, Britain’s Office for National Statistics said.
The weekly infection survey said an estimated one in 1,500 individuals had COVID-19 in the most recent week from July 20-26, compared with one in 2,000 the previous week. 
09:32 GMT – There is no ‘zero risk’ in easing travel restrictions, WHO says
There is no “zero risk” strategy for countries easing international travel restrictions during the pandemic, and essential travel for emergencies should remain the priority, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.
In a long-awaited update to its guidance on travel, the United Nations global health agency said cross-border trips for emergencies, humanitarian work, the transfer of essential personnel and repatriation would constitute essential travel.
A surge in new infections in many parts of the world has prompted some countries to reintroduce some travel restrictions, including testing and quarantining incoming passengers.

A passenger, wearing a protective mask, and her baby pass on a passenger checkpoint at the almost empty Benito Juarez international airport, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues in Mexico City, Mexico [File: Edgard Garrido/Reuters]

08:58 GMT – Poland reports record high virus cases for second day
Poland has reported its highest number of new daily cases since the pandemic started for the second day in a row, with 657 new cases, according to the health ministry.
The ministry reported seven new deaths, with a total of 45,688 reported coronavirus cases and 1,716 deaths.
Of the new cases, 227 were in the Silesia region, which has been grappling with an outbreak amongst miners. 
08:55 GMT – Philippines records 4,063 new cases
The Philippine health ministry has confirmed 4,063 infections, reporting the highest daily case increase in Southeast Asia for a second straight day.
In a bulletin, the ministry said total confirmed infections have risen to 93,354, while deaths increased by 40 to 2,023.
08:53 GMT – Germany puts three virus-hit Spanish regions on high-risk list
Germany’s Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases has put three Spanish regions, including Catalonia, home to Barcelona, on its list of countries designated as high-risk for the coronavirus.
The three regions are Catalonia, Aragon and Navarre in northern Spain, RKI said.
The summer holiday season has prompted fears that tourists returning from destinations experiencing a surge in new cases like Spain could sow the seeds of a second wave.
On Monday, Germany said it would make coronavirus tests mandatory at airports for all returning holidaymakers from high-risk areas. 
08:52 GMT – Hong Kong reports 121 new cases as local transmissions stay high
Hong Kong has reported 121 new cases, including 118 that were locally transmitted, as authorities say the global financial hub faces a critical period to battle a third wave of the virus which has seen a resurgence this month.
The Chinese territory reported a daily record of 149 new cases on Thursday. Since late January, over 3,100 people have been infected in Hong Kong, 27 of whom have died. 
08:27 GMT – Indonesia reports 2,040 new cases, 73 deaths 
Indonesia has reported 2,040 new infections and 73 additional deaths, according to data published on the country’s COVID-19 task force website.
This brought Indonesia’s total number of confirmed infections to 108,376 and deaths to 5,131. 

People attend Eid al-Adha prayer by implementing social distancing and health protocol during coronavirus outbreak at Al Akbar Mosque in Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia [Suryanto/Anadolu]

08:26 GMT – Italy’s GDP plunges 12.4 percent in second quarter  
Italy’s gross domestic product (GDP) fell by 12.4 percent in the second quarter, Italy’s national statistics bureau Istat said, plunging the country into recession.  
GDP fell by 17.3 percent compared with the year-ago second quarter, Istat said, as the coronavirus lockdown took a dramatic toll on the eurozone’s third-largest economy. 
07:49 GMT – Vietnam records first COVID-19 death after virus re-emerges 
Vietnam has confirmed its first coronavirus death, state media reported, after the death of an elderly man who had tested positive in Danang, the city where the virus re-emerged in the country last week after 100 days.
Vietnam is battling a new outbreak of the virus following months of successful countermeasures which saw the country keep its coronavirus tally to just a few hundred cases.
The man, 70, died early on Friday, state media said.
Authorities on Friday reported 45 new coronavirus cases, marking the biggest daily jump in the country, bringing the total cases in the country to 509.

Medical specialists in protective suits collect blood samples for a COVID-19 rapid test from people who recently returned from Da Nang City on July 31, 2020 in Hanoi, Vietnam [Linh Pham/Getty Images]

07:43 GMT – Russia’s case tally nears 840,000
Russia has reported 5,482 new cases, pushing its national tally to 839,981, the world’s fourth-largest caseload.
Officials said 161 people had died in the last 24 hours, bringing the official death toll to 13,963. 
07:12 GMT – France sees record 13.8 percent GDP plunge in second quarter
France’s economy has contracted by a record 13.8 percent in the second quarter under the effect of coronavirus lockdowns, the national statistics institute INSEE said.  
The seasonally-adjusted quarter-on-quarter drop in gross domestic product (GDP) was better than forecast but worse than the performance of most of its eurozone peers.  
“GDP’s negative developments in first half of 2020 is linked to the shut-down of ‘non-essential’ activities in the context of the implementation of the lockdown between mid-March and the beginning of May,” INSEE said in a statement.
INSEE also updated the figure for the first quarter to a 5.9 percent contraction, from the 5.3 percent it had previously estimated.  
The second quarter figure means the French economy has been shrinking for three consecutive quarters and continues to be in recession. 

People, wearing protective face masks, walk in a street in Paris as France enforces mask-wearing in enclosed public spaces as part of efforts to curb a resurgence of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) across the country [Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters]  

07:03 GMT – Germany reports 870 new cases
Germany has reported 870 new cases, according to a tally from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases.
That brought the total number to 208,698 while 9,141 deaths have been recorded. 
06:55 GMT – Fiji records first COVID-19 death
Fiji has announced its first coronavirus death but health officials assured people in the Pacific island nation that it is not the precursor to a major outbreak.
Health Minister Ifereimi Waqainabete said the victim was a 66-year-old man who tested positive after returning from India, where he had undergone surgery for a long-standing heart condition.  
“Sadly, despite the best efforts of our health-care professionals, this gentleman passed away yesterday in the isolation ward at Lautoka hospital due to complications from COVID-19,” Waqainabete told reporters.  
He said the man was one of nine active cases who had been held in quarantine since they were repatriated from India on July 1.
Before then, Fiji had enjoyed a spell of four weeks virus-free, after the 18 cases it had previously recorded all recovered. 

In Africa, fashion designers are injecting style into face masks.
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) July 31, 2020
06:40 GMT – UK tightens lockdown in northern England
The UK has imposed a tougher lockdown in swaths of northern England after a rise in the rate of coronavirus transmission, raising concerns that a second wave of the deadly virus could sow yet more turmoil.
About four million people were ordered not to mix with other households in Greater Manchester, the biggest city in northern England, parts of West Yorkshire and East Lancashire, though they can still go to the pub and to work.
The measures come after Britain reported its highest number of new infections in more than a month.
06:15 GMT – KLM says 1,500 new job cuts will bring total reduction to 20 percent
KLM, the Dutch arm of Air France-KLM, says it will cut 1,500 additional jobs as part of restructuring in which it needs to cut emissions by 50 percent by 2030 as well as prepare for recovering traffic after the coronavirus outbreak.
Parent company Air France-KLM on Thursday reported a 1.55 billion euro ($1.8bn) operating loss for the second quarter, with traffic down 95 percent from a year earlier.
KLM said the new cuts would mean its workforce, 33,000 before the pandemic, would be reduced by 20 percent in all by 2022. It did not rule out further cuts. 
06:04 GMT – India’s cases rise by a daily record of 55,078 
India has reported another record surge in daily infections, taking the total to 1.64 million, as the government further eases virus curbs in a bid to resuscitate the economy, while also trying to increase testing.
Infections jumped by 55,078 in the past 24 hours, while the death toll rose by 779 to 35,747, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said on its website.
The ministry also said it aimed to raise the country’s capacity to one million coronavirus tests a day in the medium term, from a record 600,000 on Friday.
The federal government this week announced the reopening of yoga institutes and gymnasiums, and removed restrictions on the movement of people and goods.
Hello, this is Farah Najjar taking over from my colleague Zaheena Rasheed.
04:51 GMT – Southeast Asia poverty to surge in ‘socio-economic crisis’
Southeast Asia is on the brink of a “socio-economic crisis” caused by the COVID-19 pandemic that could reverse decades of poverty reduction, the United Nations has warned.
“The crisis threatens to destroy the livelihoods of Southeast Asia’s 218 million informal workers,” a UN policy brief released on Thursday said. “Without alternative income, formal social protection systems or savings to buffer these shocks, workers and their families will be pushed into poverty, reversing decades of poverty reduction.”
The region-wide economy was expected to contract by 0.4 per cent in 2020, it said, while remittances from Southeast Asians working abroad were likely to fall by 13 per cent or $10bn.

The paper urged nations to fix “fiscal termites”: budget-sapping problems like tax evasion, transfer pricing and fossil fuel subsidies so they can deliver large stimulus packages to help vulnerable populations and boost their economies.
Current low oil prices provided an ideal opportunity to reverse fossil fuel subsidies, it added.
04:46 GMT – Bali welcomes visitors after four-month lockdown
Indonesia’s resort island of Bali has reopened to domestic tourists after an almost four-month lockdown for the coronavirus pandemic.
Under the easing that took effect on Friday, Indonesians visiting Bali will face stringent rules at hotels, restaurants and beaches. Foreign tourists will be allowed on the island beginning September 11.
04:35 GMT – Philippines extends restrictions
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has extended quarantine restrictions in the capital Manila, limiting movements of the elderly and children, and the operations of businesses from restaurants to gyms, until mid-August.
“My plea is to endure some more. Many have been infected,” Duterte said in a televised address.
Duterte promised free vaccines if they became available by late this year, prioritising first the poor and then the middle class, police and military personnel. The Philippines will be given precedence by China in vaccine distribution, he said.

People wearing face masks wait to have their coronavirus rapid tests at a stadium in Manila, Philippines [Aaron Favila/AP Photo]

04:03 GMT – Australia’s Victoria flags new steps to control surge in cases
Australia’s Victoria state has recorded its second-highest day of new coronavirus infections, as the state’s Premier Daniel Andrews flagged the prospect of more rigorous steps to contain the spread of the disease.
Victoria reported 627 new infections on Friday, down from a record of 723 new infections on Thursday.
“It is clear to all of us that these numbers are still far too high,” Andrews told reporters. “It may well be the case … that we need to take further steps. The data will tell us, the experts will tell us, what and if any next steps need to be.”
03:20 GMT – Hong Kong logs new high of 149 cases
Hong Kong has reported a new daily record of coronavirus cases, logging 149 more infections by Thursday end.
Amid the rise in cases, authorities reversed a ban on indoor dining, along restaurants to operate under limited hours and with limited capacity. Businesses such as bars, karaoke bars and amusement parks remain temporarily closed, and public gatherings are restricted to two people.

People have lunch at a mall in Hong Kong after the government banned dine-in services [Tyrone Siu/Reuters]

03:01 GMT – China tightens travel rules for Xinjiang capital
China has tightened travel restrictions in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang province, requiring people arriving in the city from regions deemed to have high infection risks to undergo a two-week quarantine.
Others arriving from less risky areas must show proof of good health. Locals “in principle” must stay in the city or show proof of health to be allowed to leave.
Since mid-July, the Xinjiang outbreak centred in Urumqi has seen more than 600 cases of illness, including 112 new ones reported on Friday.

2:49 GMT – Brazil first lady tests positive
Brazil’s first lady Michelle Bolsonaro has tested positive for the new coronavirus, the government announced on Thursday, five days after her husband Jair Bolsonaro said he had recovered from his COVID-19 infection.
The 38-year-old first lady “is in good health and will follow all established protocols”, the president’s office said.

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro with his wife Michelle Bolsonaro in Brasilia, on March 6, 2020 [File: Adriano Machado/Reuters]

2:42 GMT – China’s factory recovery accelerates in July
China’s factory activity expanded in July for the fifth month in a row and at a faster pace, beating analyst expectations despite disruptions from floods and a resurgence in coronavirus cases around the world.
The official manufacturing Purchasing Manager’s Index (PMI) rose to 51.1 in July from June’s 50.9, official data showed on Friday, marking the highest reading since March.
Analysts had expected it to slow to 50.7. The 50-point mark separates growth from contraction on a monthly basis.
02:14 GMT – More than three million Chileans seek to withdraw pensions
Long lines formed outside Pension Fund Administrators offices in Chile’s capital, Santiago, and the websites of several fund managers collapsed as Chileans sought to take advantage of a new law allowing citizens to tap into retirement savings amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The emergency measure, which came into effect on Thursday, allows those with savings to withdraw up to 10 percent of their pensions.
In a statement, Chile’s superintendent of pensions said 3,024,347 people had asked to withdraw their share by 5pm local time.
Opinion polls indicate nearly nine out of every 10 Chileans planned to tap their funds, with most saying they would use the money to pay for basic goods and services.

People wear face masks while queueing to enter a branch of the pension funds office to start the procedure to withdraw up to 10 percent of their deposits in Santiago, on July 30, 2020 [Martin Bernetti/AFP]

01:53 GMT – US epicentre of pandemic shifts towards Midwest
Coronavirus infections appear to be picking up in the Midwestern United States, the coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Task Force said, as the state of Ohio reported a record day of cases and Wisconsin’s governor mandated the use of masks.
The coronavirus outbreak is “moving up” into Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska from the south “because of vacations and other reasons of travel”, Deborah Birx told Fox News.
01:19 GMT – Iran prison officials’ pleas for virus help ‘ignored’
Iran’s government ignored repeated requests from senior prison officials for help in containing coronavirus in the country’s overcrowded jails, according to Amnesty International.
The rights group said it reviewed copies of four letters to the health ministry signed by officials at Iran’s Prisons Organization, “raising the alarm over serious shortages of protective equipment, disinfectant products, and essential medical devices”.
The ministry “failed to respond, and Iran’s prisons remain catastrophically unequipped for outbreaks”, Amnesty said. 

Leaked official documents obtained by Amnesty International reveal the Iranian government ignored repeated pleas by senior officials responsible for managing Iran’s prisons for additional resources to control #COVID19 spread & treat infected prisoners.
— Amnesty Iran (@AmnestyIran) July 30, 2020
00:50 GMT – Vietnam reports 45 new cases
Vietnam’s health ministry reported 45 new coronavirus infections linked to a recent outbreak in the central city of Da Nang, marking the highest daily increase since the first cases emerged in the country in late January.
The new patients, with ages ranging from 27 to 87, are linked to four hospitals and a hotel in Da Nang. Total infections since the virus resurfaced have reached 93, the ministry said in a statement.
Vietnam has registered 509 cases of the virus in total, with no deaths. The country had recorded 100 days without a locally transmitted case before the re-emergence of the virus.

00:42 GMT – Brazil’s Bolsonaro says he has ‘mould’ in lungs
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said he was taking antibiotics for an infection that left him feeling weak, chuckling in an online video about “mould” in his lungs, having spent weeks in isolation after catching the new coronavirus.
“I just did a blood test. I was feeling kind of weak yesterday. They found a bit of infection also. Now I’m on antibiotics,” Bolsonaro said in a livestream video, without elaborating on the infection.
“After 20 days indoors, I have other problems. I have mould in my lungs,” he said, referring to nearly three weeks he spent at the official presidential residence.
He tested positive for the coronavirus on July 7 and then negative last Saturday.

00:05 GMT – Botswana reinstates lockdown in capital
Botswana’s capital city Gaborone has returned to a two-week lockdown to stem its latest surge in coronavirus infections.
Under new rules for the capital and surrounding areas, only essential workers would be able to leave home for work, with others only able to leave the house to buy groceries. All gatherings will be banned and hotels, restaurants, gyms and schools will close.
“During the course of the week, the disease has taken an unprecedented turn, which now required we place the greater Gaborone region under lockdown to enable our containment measures to take hold,” Kereng Masupu, coordinator of the COVID-19 task force team, said in a televised briefing.
Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Zaheena Rasheed in Male, Maldives. 
You can find all the key developments from yesterday, July 30, here.

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Three men charged in connection with celebrity Twitter hack

The hackers targeted 130 accounts – they managed to tweet from 45 accounts, access the direct message inboxes of 36, and download the Twitter data from seven [File: Brendan McDermid/Reuters]

Two teenagers and a 22-year-old were charged with hacking the Twitter Inc accounts of famous people including former President Barack Obama, billionaire Bill Gates and Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk, the Department of Justice said on Friday.
Mason Sheppard, a 19-year-old British man who went by the alias Chaewon, was charged with carrying out the hack, as well as related wire fraud and money laundering crimes, according to a Justice Department statement.
Orlando, Florida-based Nima Fazeli, 22, nicknamed Rolex, was charged with aiding and abetting those crimes. The Justice Department did not name the third defendant, but the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office in Tampa, Florida said it had arrested 17-year-old Graham Clark.
In a statement, Twitter said it appreciated the “swift actions of law enforcement.”
The FBI said that two of the accused had been taken into custody, without identifying them.
Clark on July 15 posted messages under the profiles that solicited investments in bitcoin, a digital currency, said the Florida State Attorney’s Office. A publicly available ledger of bitcoin transactions showed he was able to obtain more than $100,000 that way.

Three Individuals Charged For Alleged Roles In Twitter Hack.A 19 year old from the UK, another 22 year old from Florida, and a juvenile (guess that’s the 17 year old from the previous tweet)
— Michal Špaček (@spazef0rze) July 31, 2020
Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren told journalists that his office had filed 30 felony charges against Clark , who was in state custody.
Warren said the adolescent was being prosecuted under state rather than federal law because Florida law enabled the state to charge him as an adult.
“This was a massive fraud orchestrated right here in our own backyard, and we won’t stand for that,” he said.
The hacks led to bogus tweets being sent out on July 15 from the accounts of Obama, Joe Biden, Mike Bloomberg and a number of tech billionaires including Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Celebrities Kanye West and his wife, Kim Kardashian West, were also hacked.
The tweets offered to send $2,000 for every $1,000 sent to an anonymous Bitcoin address.
Twitter previously said hackers used a phone to fool the social media company’s employees into giving them access. It said targeted “a small number of employees through a phone spear-phishing attack”.
“This attack relied on a significant and concerted attempt to mislead certain employees and exploit human vulnerabilities to gain access to our internal systems,” the company tweeted.

JUST IN: @WFLA is identifying the Tampa teen allegedly involved in @Twitter hack. He’s Graham Clark, 17. Details:
— Ryan Hughes (@WFLARyan) July 31, 2020
After stealing employee credentials and getting into Twitter’s systems, the hackers were able to target other employees who had access to account support tools, the company said.
The hackers targeted 130 accounts. They managed to tweet from 45 accounts, access the direct message inboxes of 36, and download the Twitter data from seven. Dutch anti-Islam legislator Geert Wilders has said his inbox was among those accessed.
Spear-phishing is a more targeted version of phishing, an impersonation scam that uses email or other electronic communications to deceive recipients into handing over sensitive information.
Twitter said it would provide a more detailed report later “given the ongoing law enforcement investigation”.
The company has previously said the incident was a “coordinated social engineering attack” that targeted some of its employees with access to internal systems and tools. It did not provide any more information about how the attack was carried out, but the details released so far suggest the hackers started by using the old-fashioned method of talking their way past security.

British cybersecurity analyst Graham Cluley said his guess was that a targeted Twitter employee or contractor received a message by phone asking them to call a number.
“When the worker called the number they might have been taken to a convincing (but fake) helpdesk operator, who was then able to use social engineering techniques to trick the intended victim into handing over their credentials,” Cluley wrote on his blog on Friday.
It is also possible the hackers pretended to call from the company’s legitimate helpline by spoofing the number, he said.

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Iraq prime minister calls early elections for June 2021

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi came to power in May after months of protests forced his predecessor to resign [Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP]

Iraq will hold its next parliamentary elections nearly a year early, in June 2021, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has announced.
“June 6, 2021, has been fixed as the date for the next legislative elections,” he said on Friday in a televised speech.
“Everything will be done to protect and ensure the success of these polls.”
The United Nations praised al-Kadhimi’s announcement saying it would promote “greater stability and democracy”.
Al-Kadhimi came to power in May after months of protests forced his predecessor to resign.
The next parliamentary elections had originally been due to take place in May 2022. Iraq’s parliament must still ratify the election date.
A key demand of protesters
Elections in Iraq are sometimes marred by violence and often by fraud.
Early elections are a key demand of anti-government protesters who staged months of mass demonstrations last year and were killed in their hundreds by security forces and gunmen suspected of links to armed groups.
The mass protests that began in October, with hundreds of thousands taking to the streets of Baghdad and across the south, demanded the political system be dismantled, pointing to endemic corruption and what many see as the malign influence of sectarian interests.

They accuse the political elite, especially legislators, of squandering Iraq’s oil wealth to line their own pockets.
Al-Kadhimi was nominated in April, months after his predecessor Adel Abdul Mahdi stepped down – the first time a prime minister has resigned before the end of his term since the US-led invasion 2003.
Abdel Mahdi’s government proposed to Parliament a new electoral law, which was quickly passed last year.
But the section detailing voting procedures and constituency boundaries has not been finalised, according to diplomats and experts.

It was not clear what role Iraq’s election commission – regularly accused of bias – would have in organising the polls.
Activists have also demanded fairer elections and changes to Iraq’s voting process and election committee after widespread accusations of fraud in the last nationwide vote in 2018.
Voter turnout in Iraq’s last election was 44.5 percent, but especially low in some impoverished southern Shia Muslim areas. Many Iraqis say they have no faith in Iraq’s electoral system.
Al-Kadhimi’s government faces a health crisis with a rapid spread of the coronavirus, a fiscal crisis because of low oil revenues and exports and challenges from powerful armed groups which oppose him.

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