Coronavirus: What’s happening around the world on Monday

The latest:

  • White House, Senate GOP try again on $1 trillion US coronavirus aid.
  • Hong Kong bans public gatherings of more than two people.
  • Anti-masking groups are employing anti-vaccination tactics to misinform the public.
  • Families reunite in N.W.T. seniors’ homes after months of COVID-19 seclusion.
  • The world’s biggest coronavirus vaccine test began Monday, with first of 30,000 volunteers.

Suggesting a narrower pandemic relief package may be all that’s possible, the White House pushed ahead with Monday’s planned rollout of the Senate Republicans’ $1 trillion US effort, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi assailed the GOP “disarray” as time-wasting during the crisis.

The administration’s chief negotiators — White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin — spent the weekend on Capitol Hill to put what Meadows described as “final touches” on the relief bill that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to bring forward Monday afternoon.

“We’re done,” Mnuchin said as he and Meadows left Capitol Hill on Sunday after meeting with GOP staff.

But looming deadlines may force them to consider other options. By Friday, millions of out-of-work Americans will lose a $600 federal unemployment benefit that is expiring and federal eviction protections for many renters are also coming to an end. U.S. President Donald Trump’s standing is at one of the lowest points of his term, according to a new AP-NORC poll.

U.S. President Donald Trump walks off Marine One, on the South Lawn of the White House, on Sunday. Trump’s standing is currently at one of the lowest points of his term. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

“They’re in disarray and that delay is causing suffering for America’s families,” Pelosi said.

Meanwhile, the world’s biggest coronavirus vaccine study got underway Monday with the first of 30,000 planned volunteers helping to test shots created by the U.S. government — one of several candidates in the global vaccine race.

There’s still no guarantee that the experimental vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Moderna Inc., will really protect against the virus. 

Volunteers won’t know if they’re getting the real shot or a dummy version. After two doses, scientists will closely track which group experiences more infections as they go about their daily routines, especially in areas where the virus still is spreading unchecked. 

“Unfortunately for the United States of America, we have plenty of infections right now,” to get that answer, NIH’s Dr. Anthony Fauci recently told The Associated Press.

This March 16, 2020, file photo shows vials used by pharmacists to prepare syringes used on the first day of a first-stage safety study clinical trial of the potential vaccine for the novel coronavirus. The world’s biggest vaccine test got underway Monday, with the first of 30,000 planned volunteers. (Ted S. Warren/The Associated Press)

Several other vaccines made by China and by Britain’s Oxford University earlier this month began smaller final-stage tests in Brazil and other hard-hit countries. 

But the U.S. requires its own tests of any vaccine that might be used in the country and has set a high bar: every month through fall, the government-funded COVID-19 Prevention Network will roll out a new study of a leading candidate — each one with 30,000 newly recruited volunteers. 

What’s happening with coronavirus in Canada

As of 7 a.m. ET on Monday, Canada had 113,911 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 99,355 of the cases as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting indicates that 8,919 Canadians have died.

Some anti-masking groups are joining forces with anti-vaccination proponents and adopting their techniques to spread misinformation and amplify their message.

At least one anti-masking group, Hugs Over Masks, actively partners with Vaccine Choice Canada, one of the country’s most prominent anti-vaccination organizations. 

Although many Canadians who don’t want to wear masks aren’t opposed to vaccines, the fact that anti-vaccination groups are involved in the relatively new anti-masking movement is concerning to many health experts.  

Despite well-established evidence that vaccines are safe and effective, anti-vaccination groups have become savvy at spreading misinformation that leads people to distrust medical guidance  — something that can have dire consequences during a pandemic. 

WATCHTensions rise over COVID-19 outbreak in Haida Gwaii:

A COVID-19 outbreak in Haida Gwaii has led to at least 13 new cases as well as a spike in tensions over how the virus got into the isolated First Nations community. 2:11

What’s happening in the rest of the world

Hong Kong will ban dining at restaurants completely and mandate masks in all public places, as the region battles a worsening coronavirus outbreak that has infected over 1,000 people in the last two weeks.

The tightened measures will be effective for one week from Wednesday. They are an extension of a previous ban on eating at restaurants and eateries after 6 p.m., as well as making it mandatory by law to wear masks on public transport.

A ban on public gatherings of more than four people has also been further tightened, with gatherings limited to two people.

Hong Kong will ban dining in at restaurants completely and make it mandatory to wear masks in all public places, as the region battles its worst coronavirus outbreak to date. (Vincent Yu/The Associated Press)

“This is so far the most challenging, the most critical wave of transmission in Hong Kong. So the next two to three weeks will be critical. We need to prevent the further spread of the disease in the community,” said Matthew Cheung, Hong Kong’s chief secretary for administration.

The region has reported a total of 2,634 infections as of Sunday. The government on Monday announced that two more patients had died, taking the coronavirus death toll in Hong Kong to 20.

Morocco is banning all travel to and from some of its major cities to try to stem a small spike in coronavirus cases, even though the North African country has remained less impacted than its European neighbours to the north.

As of Monday morning, a joint statement from the Moroccan health and interior ministries quoted by the MAP state news agency said that there is a “ban” on travel affecting the cities of Tangier, Tetouan, Fez, Meknes, Casablanca, Berrechid, Settat, as well as the popular tourist destination of Marrakech.

Passengers and luggage are screened for travel at Mohammed V International Airport in Casablanca, Morocco. The country is banning all travel to some major cities after a spike in coronavirus cases. (Abdeljalil Bounhar/The Associated Press)

The statement adds that exceptions to this include “people with urgent medical needs” and workers on specific missions who will need a travel permit issued by a local authority. Transportation of goods and commodities will continue normally.

The ministries said the decision was made because many Moroccans were not complying with measures encouraged by the government to fight the spread of the coronavirus, such as physical distancing, the wearing of masks and the use of disinfectants.

Morocco has confirmed 20,278 cases and a relatively low 313 deaths from the virus.

As India recorded nearly 50,000 fresh cases of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Narendra Modi prepared to launch facilities in three major cities to significantly ramp up testing capacity.

The 49,931 cases reported on Monday brought India’s tally to beyond 1.4 million. India has the world’s third-highest caseload after the United States and Brazil. The 32,771 reported deaths from the disease in India, however, mark a far lower fatality rate than in the other two countries.

A resident prepares for a nasal swab at a medical screening facility in Mumbai on Monday. (Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/Getty Images)

Modi’s office says the testing facilities that will begin operating on Monday will help authorities track the virus. They will be put in Noida, a suburb of the capital New Delhi, and in the cities of Mumbai and Kolkata. Each is capable of analyzing as many as 10,000 tests per day.

India’s chief medical research agency says the country tested about 515,000 samples for the coronavirus on Sunday.

South Africa is reporting more than 11,000 new confirmed coronavirus cases as the country now has more than 445,000 in all, including more than 6,700 deaths. 

South Africa has the world’s fifth-largest caseload and makes up more than half the cases across the African continent. President Cyril Ramaphosa says the recovery from the pandemic will be “long and difficult,” but experts say the worst is yet to come. 

A growing concern is poorly resourced Eastern Cape province, which makes up 16 per cent of the country’s cases but more than 20 per cent of deaths. South Africa’s public labs continue to face testing delays, with the average turnaround time for results at just over a week.

Relatives and an undertaker wearing personal protective equipment escort a coffin with the remains of a man who died from COVID-19 at a funeral home in Johannesburg on Sunday. South Africa has the highest numbers of diagnosed infections in Africa and ranks fifth in the world after the United States, Brazil, India and Russia. (Marco Longari/AFP/Getty Images)

Australia‘s hard-hit Victoria state on Monday posted a new daily record of 532 new coronavirus cases, and the government leader warned that a lockdown in the city of Melbourne would continue while infected people continue to go to work.

Melbourne is almost halfway through a six-week lockdown aimed at curbing community spread of coronavirus. Mask-wearing in Australia’s second-largest city became compulsory last week.

Professor Brett Sutton, Victoria’s chief health officer, looks on during a press conference on Monday in Melbourne, Australia. Victoria has recorded 532 new cases of coronavirus and six more deaths. (Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said the biggest driver of the new infections was people continuing to go to work after showing symptoms.

“This is what is driving these numbers up and the lockdown will not end until people stop going to work with symptoms and instead go and get tested,” Andrews said.

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