Melbourne’s shops, restaurants and hotels opened for business on Wednesday after a four month coronavirus lockdown, with happy customers enjoying alfresco eating in the spring sunshine and shopkeepers hoping for big sales to make up for lost revenue, Reuters reports.
The state of Victoria and its capital Melbourne, Australia’s second most populous city, has been the epicentre of Covid-19 infections, but the strict lockdown has ended a second wave, with only two new cases and two deaths overnight.
“Around 180,000 workers can return to work on site. That is a achievement that every single Victorian should be proud of,” state premier Daniel Andrews told a regular media briefing.
“We all have to follow the rules, to protect staff, to protect customers, to protect this fragile thing that we have built…So we can have the Christmas we have been looking forward to, with the people we have missed the most.”
France to give televised address on Wednesday evening
President Emmanuel Macron will give a televised address on Wednesday evening, his office said on Tuesday, after the French leader held meetings reviewing the state of the coronavirus epidemic in France.
French authorities are looking at options for still tighter measures to fight Covid-19, which has kept spreading in the country despite some of the strictest restrictions in Europe, according to three sources familiar with the government’s thinking.
The Elysee palace did not say what Macron’s address would be about, but such televised statement have in the past been the occasion to announce new measures to fight the epidemic.
Global shares slipped on Wednesday as coronavirus infections grew at an alarming pace in the United States and Europe, while uncertainty over next week’s US elections added to a “risk off” tone.
MSCI’s ex-Japan Asia index dipped 0.15% in early trade while Japan’s Nikkei fell 0.6%.
Futures for U.S. S&P500, Dow Jones and Nasdaq all fell 0.5%-0.6% in Asian trade on Wednesday, rattled by a media report that French government may bring in a national lockdown from midnight on Thursday.
The United States, Russia, France and other countries have registered record numbers of infections in recent days, and European governments have introduced new curbs to try to rein in the fast-growing outbreaks. Data on Tuesday showed US consumer confidence unexpectedly fell in October, although other economic figures were mostly positive, with orders for key capital goods hitting a six-year high.
The fall in US stock futures came after a mixed session on Wall Street, where the S&P 500 lost 0.30% on virus worries while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite added 0.64%.
Microsoft kicked off a slate of reporting from tech heavyweights by beating Wall Street estimates for quarterly revenue, buoyed by its flagship cloud computing business amid increased work-from-home arrangements. But its shares slipped 1.7% after the bell.
Apple Inc, Amazon.com, and Google-parent Alphabet are among major tech players reporting later this week.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday predicted a “tough winter” in the face of a second wave of Covid-19 infections engulfing much of the country, and called it a horrific national tragedy as deaths topped the 10,000 mark.
Canada’s case numbers have been rising, triggering new restrictions on public gatherings and indoor activities in several provinces. On Tuesday, Canada recorded 2,674 new cases, while there are now 10,001 deaths and a total of 222,887 cases.
“This sucks. It really, really does,” Trudeau told a news conference when asked about the fatigue Canadians feel after living amid the pandemic for more than seven months.
The comments marked a rare show of emotion and frustration from Trudeau, who has regularly given nationally televised briefings to reassure Canadians that his Liberal government is managing the crisis as best it can.
“What we are living through is a horrific national tragedy. Families have lost loved ones, been devastated by these tragedies, and we need to know that there are more tragedies to come,” Trudeau said.
The White House has included among a lists of accomplishments this year “Ending the Covid-19 pandemic” – something it clearly has not achieved.
A news release accompanying a 62-page report from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy includes, among the “highlights” to be found in the report, the phrase “Ending the pandemic”.
The release, quoted in the Huffington Post, states, “From the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the administration has taken decisive actions to engage scientists and health professionals in academia, industry, and government to understand, treat, and defeat the disease.”
Protesters set trash bins afire and police responded with hydrant sprays in downtown Rome Tuesday night, part of a day of public outpouring of anger against virus-fighting measures like evening shutdowns for restaurants and bars and the closures of gyms and theaters — a sign of growing discontent across Europe with renewed coronavirus restrictions, AP reports.
Pedestrians and motorists returning home from work in Rome were taken by surprise when protesters, some of them hooded and members of an extreme-right political group, set afire to trash bins in Piazza del Popolo, overturned parked motor scooters and mopeds and hurled smoke bombs, state TV reported. Police vans unleashed torrents of water to disperse them.
It was a fifth straight night of violent protest in Italy, following recent local overnight curfews in metropolises including Naples and Rome.
Starting next week, Hawaii will begin allowing visitors from Japan to bypass the state’s 14-day quarantine requirement if they test negative for Covid-19.
But Japanese travelers will still have to spend two weeks in quarantine upon returning home, which will likely limit the number of people taking advantage of the plan.
The testing option takes effect on 6 November. Travelers must take a Covid-19 test from an approved clinic or hospital in Japan within 72 hours of their departure.
Hawaii earlier this month implemented a similar testing program for travelers from other parts of the US.
Hawaii’s tourism-dependent economy gets more travelers from Japan than any other foreign country. Before the coronavirus pandemic, the state would welcome about 5,000 visitors from Japan daily. Those numbers have dwindled to almost none.
Trump at a rally in Omaha, meanwhile:
Half of total 2016 US election turnout figure have already voted this year
More than 70 million Americans have cast ballots in the US presidential election, more than half the total turnout of the 2016 election with one week to go until Election Day, according to a Tuesday tally from the US Elections Project.
The tally, which shows a record-breaking pace that could lead to the highest voter turnout in percentage terms in more than a century, is the latest sign of intense interest in the contest between Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden. It also highlights voters’ desire to reduce their risk of exposure to Covid-19 as the pandemic regathers strength heading into winter.
The high level of early voting has led Michael McDonald, the University of Florida professor who administers the US Elections Project, to predict a record US voter turnout of about 150 million, representing 65% of those eligible to vote, the highest rate since 1908.
US voters have already cast far more early votes during this presidential campaign than they did in all of 2016 when they passed the 47 million mark earlier this month, data shows.
More on the US case surge:
Beyond the Midwest, the Texas city of El Paso is also facing a surge in cases that is overwhelming local hospitals, with officials setting up an alternate care facility to help relieve medical centers.
“We are seeing all sorts of patients. The narrative historically has been the above-65, those with multiple co-morbidities. But we’re seeing 20-year-olds. We’re seeing 30-year-olds, 40-year-olds,” Dr. Ogechika Alozie, an infectious disease specialist in El Paso, told Reuters.
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announced he was reinstating some coronavirus rules to combat what city officials described as a “dramatic rise” in Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations.
Restaurants, retail businesses and offices will have their 50% capacity slashed in half, the mayor said, while events will be capped at indoor 25 people indoors and 75 outdoors.
Colorado reported a record one-day increase in cases on Monday and hospitalizations have risen 60% in the last two weeks to 571. The percentage of positive tests has more than doubled this month to over 7%. However, the number of those hospitalized in the state is far below April’s record 1,000.
China reports highest cases in two months
More now on China’s 42 new cases, which are the highest daily toll in more than two months due to a rise in infections in the northwestern Xinjiang region, the country’s health authority said on Wednesday.
Of the new cases, 22 in the city of Kashgar in Xinjiang were previously asymptomatic patients. The region’s health authorities also reported another 19 symptomless infections, which China does not recognise as confirmed Covid-19 cases, which accounted for half the new asymptomatic cases reported.
The daily toll marks the highest since 44 confirmed infections were reported on Aug. 10, though it remains far off the peaks in February at the height of the outbreak in mainland China that forced the country into a virtual standstill.
Kashgar health officials said the Covid-19 testing drive for the 4.75 million people in the area was completed as of Tuesday afternoon and a total of 183 people were confirmed to have been infected with the novel coronavirus. The cases are linked to a garment factory, though it’s not yet clear how the infections began.
The total number of confirmed Covid-19 infections in mainland China now stands at 85,868, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,634.
Nearly 500,000 Americans have tested positive for coronavirus in last seven days
Nearly half a million people have contracted Covid-19 in the United States over the last seven days, according to a Reuters tally, as new cases and hospitalizations set records in the Midwest.
Coronavirus hot spots include Illinois, which reported 31,000 new infections over the past week, and two states expected to be key in the US presidential election on 3 November: Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
“We must take significant and collective actions,” Andrea Palm of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services told a news conference, adding that contact tracers were overwhelmed and hospitals may face staffing shortages. “This is going to get worse before it gets better.”
Nationwide more than 5,600 people died from the virus nationwide in the last week, with hospitalizations rising 13%, a Reuters analysis showed.
U.S. President Donald Trump, facing a tough re-election battle on 3 November, on Tuesday reiterated his claim that the country is “rounding the turn” in the pandemic that has killed more than 226,000 people since erupting in March.
“We did the ventilators and now we’re doing all of the equipment and now we’re doing vaccines, we’re doing therapeutics. We’ve done a great job, and people are starting to see,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
China reports 42 new cases
Mainland China reported 42 new Covid-19 cases on 27 October, up sharply from 16 a day earlier as new cases were reported in the northwestern Xinjiang region, the country’s health authority said on Wednesday.
Of the new cases, 22 of them were locally transmitted infections in Xinjiang following an apparent mass infection in Kashgar. The region’s health authority also reported 19 new asymptomatic infections, half of the total number of symptomless infections reported in Mainland China for 27 October.
The total number of confirmed Covid-19 infections in Mainland China now stands at 85,868, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,634.
The Australian state of Victoria has achieved a remarkable reduction in Covid-19 case numbers after a lengthy period of restrictions.
To put this achievement in context – Australia has done what very few countries have achieved in effectively suppressing a second-wave outbreak from a high point of more than 700 new cases a day. Victoria has now recorded only two cases in three days and lockdown restrictions are being eased.
This story showd a visual comparison of Australia’s epidemic curve compared with a number of other countries:
It looks like being another difficult day on global financial markets with uncertainty about the outcome of the US election adding to the negative sentiment around the spread of coronavirus in Europe and the US.
The Australian stock market opened down 0.4% but has recovered some ground to 0.1% in the red. That’s a big improvement on Tuesday’s chunky loss of 1.7% but it looks like shares are going to lose out across Asia Pacific more broadly with the Nikkei off 0.4% at the opening on Wednesday and Seoul down 0.25%.
France considering one-month lockdown – reports
We’re seeing reports that the French government may be considering a one-month national lockdown in response to surging coronavirus cases and higher deaths.
The lockdown could take effect from midnight on Thursday, France’s BFM TV reported on Tuesday.
French President Emmanuel Macron is due to make a televised address on Wednesday. His office did not comment on whether Macron would announce such a measure then.
BFM TV added the lockdown under consideration would be “more flexible” than the strict restrictions on movement imposed in France in March this year.
Hello and welcome to today’s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.
My name is Helen Sullivan and I’ll be bringing you the latest from around the world for the next few hours.
As always, it would be good to hear from you: get in touch on Twitter @helenrsullivan.
The French prime minister, Jean Castex, told lawmakers hospital intensive care units will be saturated with Covid-19 patients by 11 November if nothing is done to stop the epidemic in France.
“He told us that on 11 November, our hospitals will be at a saturation level equivalent to that of the first wave, so a level of extreme saturation,” lawmaker André Chassaigne told reporters after a meeting with the prime minister behind closed doors.
“So the situation is particularly serious. If we can’t flatten the curve, in the next 15 days, our hospitals won’t be able to treat patients,” he added.
Here are the key developments from the last few hours:
- French ICU units to hit record saturation in two weeks without new measures. The number of Covid-19 patients in French intensive care units could reach the same level as during the peak of the first wave in April in two weeks without new measures, a government spokesman said.
- Nearly 200 airports in UK and Europe could go bust due to collapse in air travel. Airports Council International Europe, which represents airport operators, said it estimated that 193 out of Europe’s 740 commercial airports face “insolvency in the coming months if passenger traffic does not start to recover by the year-end”.
- Canada’s Justin Trudeau predicts ‘tough winter’ and says pandemic ‘sucks’. As a second wave of Covid-19 infections engulfs much of the country, Trudeau called the pandemic a horrific national tragedy in5a rare show of emotion and frustration from the prime minister.
- US coronavirus cases surge in midwest as Trump heads there in campaign push. Trump travelled to a rally in Michigan and planned to go on to events in Wisconsin and Nebraska the same day, on a pre-election blitz across three states where cases are rising most steeply.
- Obama ridicules Trump over Covid media coverage complaints at Florida rally. He mocked the president for his complaints about the media closely covering the national coronavirus crisis,9saying “He is jealous of Covid’s media coverage.”