India reported more than 49,000 fresh cases of the coronavirus with 740 new deaths, marking the biggest daily surge in infections.
Papua New Guinea has put out a call for emergency assistance to the WHO, fearful it might be facing widespread community transmission of the disease.
More than 15.5 million people around the world have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and at least 8.8 million people have recovered, while more than 633,000 have died – according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Here are the updates:
Friday, July 24
17:10 GMT – Nicaraguans stuck at Costa Rica border after Managua bars re-entry on virus fears
Hundreds of Nicaraguans are stuck in limbo between Costa Rica and Nicaragua after their homeland refused to allow them back without proof that they are not infected with the coronavirus, authorities said.
Nicaraguans have been exiting Costa Rica since Wednesday through the border post of Penas Blancas but about 300 are now stranded, having been barred from entering Nicaragua by its government, Costa Rica’s immigration department said.
Managua is demanding that the Nicaraguans, who are waiting for the impasse to end by the side of a road, show proof that they have taken a coronavirus test in the last 72 hours.
16:35 GMT – UK PM Johnson says “open questions” on whether lockdown came too late
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there were open questions as to whether lockdown was introduced too late, as COVID-19 was poorly understood in its early stages.
Asked whether lockdown came too late, Johnson said: “When you listen to the scientists, the questions that you’ve just asked are actually very open questions as far as they are concerned.
“This was something that was new, that we didn’t understand in the way that we would have liked in the first few weeks and months, and … the single thing that we didn’t see at the beginning was the extent to which it was being transmitted asymptomatically from person to person,” he told the BBC.
Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been asked whether lockdown came too late [File: Ben Stansall/Pool/Reuters]
16:15 GMT – Human trials of second Russian COVID-19 vaccine to start July 27
Human trials of Russia’s second potential coronavirus vaccine, developed by the Siberian Vector institute, will begin on July 27, the TASS news agency cited Russia’s consumer safety watchdog as saying.
An early-stage human trial of a separate vaccine, developed by the Gamaleya institute in Moscow, was completed this month, with scientists hailing the results and authorities planning to move to mass production in the autumn.
15:42 GMT – Spain’s total coronavirus cases rise by 2,255
Spain reported a cumulative total of 272,421 coronavirus cases, up 2,255 from the day before, health ministry data showed, with the figure including people who have recovered from the disease but whose antibody tests were taken now.
In the past 24 hours, some 922 new infections were diagnosed, the ministry said, compared with 971 the previous day.
Since lifting a nationwide lockdown a month ago Spain has struggled to contain a rise in new infections.
Man wearing a face mask in Barcelona, Spain [File: Nacho Doce/Reuters]
15:10 GMT – Italy imposes quarantine on travellers from Romania, Bulgaria
Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza said he had signed a quarantine order for people who have been in Romania and Bulgaria in the last 14 days, in a move aimed at preventing the importation of COVID-19 cases from outside the country.
“The virus is not defeated and continues to circulate. For this reason we still need to be careful,” Speranza wrote on Facebook.
Italy, one of the European countries worst-affected by the novel coronavirus, had already banned entry to people coming from 16 countries including hard-hit Brazil.
A giant Italian national flag hanging over the facade of Palazzo Medolago Albani near Milan [File: Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images]
14:43 GMT – France advises citizens not to travel to Catalonia
France is advising it citizens not to travel to the Spanish region of Catalonia in order to help contain the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus, French Prime Minister Jean Castex said.
Castex also said the government will reinforce controls at France’s borders in the hope of better containing the pandemic, with people arriving from some countries being subject to compulsory testing.
Castex was speaking on the sidelines of a visit to Charles-de-Gaulle international airport, north of Paris.
14:20 GMT – Norway to restrict travel from Spain, open more for Sweden
Norway will re-impose a 10-day quarantine requirement for people arriving from Spain from Saturday after a surge in COVID-19 cases there, while it will ease restrictions on people coming from more counties of Sweden, the government said.
Residents of the European Union, European Economic Area or Schengen countries with fewer than 20 confirmed cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the last two weeks are able to enter Norway without being required to go into self-quarantine.
The latest data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) showed COVID-19 infections in Spain had risen to 30.9 per 100,000 inhabitants.
14:00 GMT – Portugal criticises UK decision to keep it off safe travel list
Britain’s decision to continue to maintain a quarantine regime for travellers coming from Portugal is “not backed by facts”, Portugal’s foreign minister Augusto Santos Silva said in a tweet.
13:35 GMT – Germany to test people returning from high-risk countries for coronavirus
Health ministers from Germany’s states agreed to require people returning from high-risk countries to take a coronavirus test at the airport or face two weeks’ quarantine as part of efforts to prevent a new wave of infections.
Anyone who cannot show a negative test result will be required to go into quarantine for 14 days, Berlin’s Health Minister Dilek Kalyci told reporters following a meeting of the state ministers.
Hello, this is Arwa Ibrahim taking over from my colleague Farah Najjar.
11:56 GMT – Drop in UK COVID-19 infections has levelled off, statisticians say
The number of people in Britain infected with COVID-19 has stopped falling, and now stands at around one in 2,000 people who are not in hospitals or care homes, the Office for National Statistics said.
“Despite decreases in the level of COVID-19 infection from mid-May to mid-June this has slowed in recent weeks and has now levelled off. As the Government relaxes lockdown measures, we are closely monitoring these results for any changes,” ONS statistician Heather Bovill said.
The data is primarily based on 114,674 swab tests conducted in the six weeks running up to July 19.
09:56 GMT – Three-year-old dies as Belgian virus cases grow
A three-year-old girl was among the latest series of deaths from the coronavirus epidemic in Belgium, officials said, as the country confronts a worrying growth in new infections.
Health spokesman Boudewijn Catry said three people die each day in Belgium from COVID-19, including recently the toddler and an 18-year-old.
“It’s true that it’s rare that a young person dies of COVID-19, but it’s clear that no-one is immune,” he warned, after the number of new infections per week in Belgium jumped by 89 percent.
09:55 GMT – Bulgarian PM Borissov isolated, awaits COVID-19 test results
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov has gone into quarantine after the head of his political office tested positive for coronavirus late on Thursday, the government press office said in a statement.
Borissov, 61, whose first test for coronavirus came out negative, will stay in self-isolation until the results of a second test taken early on Friday come out, a government spokeswoman said.
Bulgaria has registered a spike in coronavirus infections in the past month. On Friday, the Balkan country had 268 new cases, bringing the total to 9,853 including 329 deaths.
09:13 GMT – India sees record 49,000 new cases, drug shortages in places
India reported over 49,000 fresh cases of the coronavirus with 740 new deaths, marking the biggest daily surge in cases even as officials in some states complained of shortages of vital drugs for those hospitalised.
As the number of cases neared 1.3 million in India, local authorities scrambled to procure generic versions of remdesivir, the drug that has shown promise in clinical trials in treating severely-ill patients.
“Demand is huge as cases are rising rapidly in the state,” said a senior drug regulatory official in the western state of Maharashtra. “Supplies of the drug are limited, but companies have assured us they will provide more in a week.”
09:10 GMT – WHO scientist sees regulators cooperating to speed vaccine approval
Regulators that normally work within their own countries or regions will likely harmonise efforts on potential COVID-19 vaccines to speed up their approvals once they become available, WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said.
Swaminathan, answering questions on social media platforms, also said testing vaccines for safety and efficacy – usually a years-long process – could be accelerated to just six months in the midst of the pandemic, if data satisfied regulators that they have enough information to issue approvals.
Still, she said, safety would be paramount. “Whilst speed is important, it cannot be at the cost of compromising on the safety or the efficacy standards that one is setting for oneself,” she said.
“It’s not the case that the first vaccine is going to be rushed through into injecting millions of people without having established the fact whether it’s really protecting you and whether it’s safe enough for use in large populations.”
A woman holds a small bottle labeled with a “Vaccine COVID-19” sticker and a medical syringe [File: Dado Ruvic/Daylife]
09:07 GMT – UK PM Johnson: We will be past coronavirus by mid-2021
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he thought the country would be through the coronavirus crisis by mid-2021 but his fear was that there would be second spike.
“Whether it came from … a bat, a pangolin or however it emerged, it was a very, very nasty thing for the human race. And I think by the middle of next year we will be well on the way past it,” he told reporters.
Speaking a year since he became prime minister, Johnson said his experience was that government needed “to move faster and be more responsive to the needs of the people.”
He mentioned that people were unable to get their passports in time and a backlog of court cases.
“Sometimes government can be slow,” Johnson told reporters
08:59 GMT – Hong Kong reports 123 new cases as local transmissions stay high
Hong Kong reported 123 new cases, including 115 that were locally transmitted, a new daily record, as authorities warn the city faces a critical period in containing the virus.
The global financial hub reported 118 new cases on Thursday, after it extended strict social distancing measures this week.
Since late January, more than 2,000 people have been infected in Hong Kong, 16 of whom have died.
08:55 GMT – Philippines reports 15 new deaths, 2,103 infections
The Philippines’ health ministry reported 15 more deaths from the coronavirus and 2,103 additional infections.
In a bulletin, the ministry said total deaths had increased to 1,879, while confirmed infections have reached 76,444.
Children wearing face masks for protection against the coronavirus disease play video games on their phones at a market in Quezon City, Metro Manila [Eloisa Lopez/Reuters]
08:38 GMT – China’s daily passenger flights rebound to 80 percent of pre-COVID levels
China’s aviation regulator said the number of daily passenger flights had rebounded to about 80 percent of pre-COVID levels, suggesting further improvement in the aviation industry.
Daily transported air passenger numbers have recovered to nearly 70 percent of the levels seen last year, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said
08:34 GMT – Indonesia reports 1,761 new coronavirus cases, 89 deaths
Indonesia reported 1,761 new infections, bringing the total tally to 95,418, data from the country’s Health Ministry website showed.
The number of deaths in the Southeast Asian nation related to COVID-19 rose by 89, to bring the total to 4,665, the data showed.
An employee wearing a protective mask and face shield walks inside a Railink train after the government eased restrictions following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Jakarta [Willy Kurniawan/Reuters]
07:33 GMT – Russia’s coronavirus case tally passes 800,000
The total number of cases in Russia passed 800,000, as the country reported 5,811 new infections in the past 24 hours.
The country’s coronavirus crisis response centre said 154 people had died from the virus overnight, taking the official death toll to 13,046.
Total infections stand at 800,849. Russia says 588,774 people have recovered.
07:17 GMT – South Korea says daily cases may top 100, driven by imported infections
South Korean health authorities said coronavirus infections among people arriving from abroad could drive the number of new cases to more than 100, the first time since the beginning of April that daily cases hit triple digits.
The numbers for Friday will not be announced until Saturday, but Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) deputy director Kwon Jun-wook told a briefing a large number of crewmembers on a Russian ship had tested positive, as had a number of South Korean workers brought home on military flights from Iraq.
So far, 32 members of the ship’s crew, along with five people who had been in contact with them, had tested positive, Kwon said.
Meanwhile, two South Korean military aircraft arrived from Iraq on Friday, carrying 293 workers who were evacuated as cases swelled in that country. At least 89 of the workers were showing symptoms, Kwon said.
06:22 GMT – Israeli firm developing breathalyser test, gives results in 30 seconds
An Israeli company is developing a coronavirus breathalyser test that gives results in 30 seconds, billing it as a “front line” tool that can help restore a sense of normality during the pandemic.
NanoScent, the firm making the test kits, said an extensive trial in Israel for the presence of live virus delivered results with 85 percent accuracy, and the product could receive regulatory approval within months.
Chief executive officer Oren Gavriely told AFP news agency the breathalyser would not replace lab tests, but was a mass screening tool that could help people gain “the confidence to go back and act as normal”.
06:12 GMT – China steps up testing after virus cluster in major port city
The port city of Dalian in Liaoning province, home to nearly six million people, will introduce a wave of coronavirus testing to stamp out a small cluster of cases, authorities said, with state media reporting communities will be locked down.
The city has reported three cases in recent days after going nearly four months without any.
The fresh outbreak has been linked to a seafood processing company that deals with imported products.
The Dalian health commission said the city had to “quickly enter wartime mode, go all-out, mobilise all people and resolutely curb the spread of the epidemic”.
It announced strict new measures, including on-the-spot nucleic acid tests for everyone taking the subway line that passes the affected seafood company.
Hello, this is Farah Najjar taking over from my colleague Zaheena Rasheed.
04:32 GMT – US: Man arrested for pulling gun when asked to wear mask
A man was arrested in the United States for pointing a gun at a fellow shopper who asked him to wear a mask because of the coronavirus pandemic at a Walmart store in the state of Florida, according to the police.
Vincent Scavetta, 28, was arrested on the charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and improper exhibition of a firearm, the Palm Beach sheriff’s office said.
“Welcome to PBC Jail, son. Let this be a lesson. It could have ended badly,” the office wrote on Twitter.
The man who pulled a gun during a verbal altercation in @Walmart Royal Palm Beach has been arrested for Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon and Improper Exhibition of a Firearm.
Welcome to PBC Jail, son. Let this be a lesson. It could have ended badly. pic.twitter.com/Sx13OZ9i4j
— PBSO (@PBCountySheriff) July 23, 2020
03:47 GMT – Costa Rica gets $300m loan
The Central American Bank for Economic Integration approved a $300m loan to Costa Rica to help stabilise the local economy, which has been hit hard by restrictions aimed at containing the new coronavirus.
Street protests sparked by the economic impact of the virus erupted this week in the Latin American country, where the virus has killed 80 people and infected 13,129.
03:18 GMT – China reports 21 new cases, including 13 in Xinjiang
China reported 21 new coronavirus cases in the mainland for July 23, down from 22 cases a day earlier.
Of the new infections, the National Health Commission said 13 were in the far western region of Xinjiang and two were in Dalian city in the northeastern province of Liaoning. The remaining six were imported cases.
A medical worker collects a swab from a man in Urumqi, Xinjiang province, on July 19, 2020 [CNS photo via Reuters]
02:53 GMT – Disney postpones Mulan debut, delays Avatar and Star Wars
Walt Disney Co postponed the debut of its movie Mulan indefinitely and delayed the next film instalments from two of its biggest franchises, Avatar and Star Wars, by one year.
Mulan was scheduled to reach theatres in March but its release has been postponed several times as many cinemas remain closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The film had most recently been set to debut on August 21 and theatre operators had hoped it would help prompt a late-summer rebound for movie-going.
Avatar and Star Wars sequels, which were delayed due to disruption to production, are now set to debut in theatres in December 2022 and December 2023, respectively.
02:27 GMT – Australia’s Victoria posts highest daily death toll
Australia’s second-most populous state of Victoria said six people died from the coronavirus in the last 24 hours, the highest daily toll since the pandemic began.
Victoria had reported five deaths a day earlier. The state recorded 300 new infections on Friday compared with 403 cases a day earlier.
02:00 GMT – S Africa closes schools amid ‘coronavirus storm’
Cyril Ramaphosa, the president of South Africa, said all public schools in the country would be taking a “short break” for four weeks amid the arrival of a “coronavirus storm”.
“This means that schools will be closed from 27 July and will reopen on 24 August,” he said during a briefing in Pretoria. There were some exceptions to the sudden school closures with Grade 12 teachers and learners set to return after a week of closer and Grade 7 after just two weeks, he said.
South Africa now has the fifth-highest number of coronavirus cases in the world. The total caseload surpassed 400,000 on Thursday.
A member of the South African military talks to a man during a patrol as a nighttime curfew is reimposed in Johannesburg, South Africa [Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters]
01:47 GMT – Turkish parliament gives Erdogan authority to extend layoff ban
Turkey’s parliament approved a law allowing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to extend a layoff ban imposed to combat the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
The layoff ban was first imposed in April for three months. With the new law, Erdogan will be allowed to extend the ban by three months each time until June 30, 2021.
Another section of the law authorises Erdogan to decide for each sector whether to extend the short labour pay benefit, a system that provides additional wages to employees whose hours are cut short.
01:08 GMT – US deaths top 1,000 for third day in a row
The US recorded more than 1,000 deaths from COVID-19 on Thursday, marking the third straight day the nation passed that grim milestone as the pandemic escalates in southern and western states.
Nationwide 1,014 deaths were recorded, with not all states reporting. There were 1,135 deaths on Wednesday and 1,141 on Tuesday.
Even though deaths are rising for a second week in a row, they remain well below levels seen in April, when 2,000 people a day on average died from the virus.
00:30 GMT – Trump cancels Republican convention in Florida
US President Donald Trump scrapped plans for a four-night Republican National Convention celebration in Jacksonville, Florida, that had been set to draw more than 10,000 people to a pandemic hotspot to mark his renomination.
“The timing for this event is not right,” Trump said at a White House news briefing. “It’s just not right with what’s happened recently, the flare-up in Florida. To have a big convention, it’s not the right time.”
He said he ordered his aides to cancel the event “to protect the American people”.
Republican delegates would still be meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina, the original venue for the convention, on the week beginning August 24, Trump said.
Read more here.
00:11 GMT – US watchdog finds flawed virus response at California prison
A federal prison complex in the US state of California struggled to contain the spread of the coronavirus because of staff shortages, limited use of home confinement and ineffective screening, according to a watchdog.
In a new report, the Office of the Inspector General at the Department of Justice said that two staff members at the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) facility in Lompoc, California, came to work in late March despite experiencing coronavirus symptoms, though those symptoms were not detected during screening.
Officials in March also failed to test or isolate an inmate who reported that he had begun having symptoms two days earlier. The inmate later tested positive at a hospital. As of mid-July, four inmates had died and more than 1,000 had tested positive.
Lompoc, which has four facilities, houses about 2,700 low-, minimum- and medium-security inmates.
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 23, here.