Coronavirus: What’s happening around the world on Wednesday

The latest:

  • Canada-U.S. border closure extended into August, officials say.
  • U.K. health minister says government will not be recommending masks in offices.
  • With uptick in COVID-19 cases, Quebec could be forced to choose between schools and bars.
  • Venezuela’s new coronavirus cases reach 10,000.
  • South Africa surpasses U.K. in number of confirmed virus cases.
  • Lives remembered: Honouring the Canadians who have died from COVID-19.

Tokyo raised its coronavirus alert to the highest “red” level on Wednesday, alarmed by a recent spike in daily new cases to record highs, with Gov. Yuriko Koike describing the situation in Japan’s capital as “rather severe.”

In Tokyo, daily virus cases exceeded 200 in four of the past seven days, touching an all-time high of 243 last Friday as testing among nightclub workers in its red-light districts showed rising infections among people in their 20s and 30s. Health experts noted Tokyo hospitals were getting crowded as the number of patients doubled from the previous week.

“We are in a situation where we should issue warnings to citizens and businesses,” Koike told a press conference, urging residents to refrain from unnecessary travel. The infection rate in Tokyo is at stage “red,” the highest of four levels in the metropolis’s system, Koike said, citing the analysis by health experts who cautioned earlier in the day that infections were going up quite a bit and “exceeding peaks.”

She also pledged to step up testing for the virus by utilizing equipment at universities. “My understanding is that we’re in a rather severe situation now,” Koike said.

WATCH | India reimposes lockdown as worldwide COVID-19 cases soar:

Millions of people worldwide have been forced back into lockdown as COVID-19 cases soar in several countries, including India which is expected to hit one million cases this week. 2:00

The resurgence of the virus in Tokyo could add to the growing pressure on policymakers to shore up the world’s third-largest economy, which analysts say is set to shrink at its fastest pace in decades this fiscal year due to the pandemic.

“It is a fact that the number of patients is going up quite a bit and exceeding peaks,” said Norio Ohmagari, director of the National Center for Global Health and Medicine Hospital.

Infections among young people and asymptomatic cases are rising, Ohmagari said at a meeting with Tokyo officials.

Fearing a second wave of infections spreading from the capital, local municipalities and opposition lawmakers also urged the central government to suspend a major “Go To” travel aid campaign that aims to boost domestic tourism.

But Japan’s economy minister, Yasutoshi Nishimura, said the government will cautiously proceed with the campaign, which includes discounts for shopping and food.

As of 7:30 a.m. ET on Wednesday, the global coronavirus case count stood at 13,323,530, with 578,628 deaths due to the virus and 7,399,310 cases considered recovered, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

What’s happening with coronavirus in Canada

As of 7:30 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada had 108,486 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 72,170 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 8,836.

WATCH | Most of Canada’s new COVID-19 cases are in people under 40:

Health officials are voicing concern as the majority of new COVID-19 cases are being found in people under the age of 40, especially as more bars and restaurants open for indoor service. 2:03

A group of Ontario child-care operators is asking the province to allow the sector to fully reopen in September. The six operators said a government plan that restricts capacity could result in the closure of some centres.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce said this week that the province was planning to expand the number of children allowed in daycare centres effective July 27, from the current cohorts of 10 to 15 children. Lecce said that should help restore 90 per cent of the province’s pre-pandemic child-care system capacity.

The providers call the cohort numbers “arbitrary” and say they will reduce available child-care spaces for families. The group says full capacity can be accommodated safely if they adhere to strict physical distancing and the recommendations for school reopenings made by Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children.

Here’s what’s happening around the world

Levels of childhood immunizations against dangerous diseases such as measles, tetanus and diphtheria have dropped alarmingly during the COVID-19 pandemic, putting millions of children at risk, United Nations agencies said on Wednesday.

“The avoidable suffering and death caused by children missing out on routine immunizations could be far greater than COVID-19 itself,” World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a joint report with UNICEF.

Three-quarters of the 82 countries that responded to a survey for the report said they had suffered coronavirus-related disruptions to their immunization programs as of May 2020. Most problems were linked to a lack of sufficient personal protection equipment (PPE) for health workers, travel restrictions, and low health worker staffing levels — all of which led to immunization services being curbed or shut down.

Australia’s most populous states will impose harsher restrictions on movement if a COVID-19 outbreak is not quickly brought under control, state premiers said on Wednesday.

Australia has been heralded as a global leader in containing COVID-19, its total death toll lower than what Florida reported on Tuesday alone. Even so, it has seen a surge in new cases, culminating with 10 days of triple-digit gains as of Wednesday.

Nationally, Australia has now recorded about 10,500 cases, while the death toll rose to 111 on Wednesday after a woman in her 90s died from the virus. Victoria state reported another 238 cases in the past 24 hours, even after reimposing a lockdown last week on about five million people in Melbourne, Australia’s second-biggest city.

Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews singled out a minority of people for defying lockdown orders — which require people to stay home except for a small number of permissible activities — warning restrictions could be extended.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews urged people in his state to abide by lockdown restrictions due to a growing coronavirus outbreak. (Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Indian authorities will impose lockdowns in high-risk areas in nearly a dozen states as the nation’s coronavirus caseload approaches one million.

A two-week lockdown starting Thursday has been imposed in Bihar, a state in eastern India with 128 million people and a fragile health system. Since Saturday, Bihar has recorded over 1,000 cases each day despite limited testing.

In Bangalore, a key technology hub in southern India where major tech companies like Amazon and Apple have offices, the government has ordered a weeklong lockdown. The boost that India’s economy received in June after the nationwide lockdown was relaxed is being halted by the localized lockdowns, experts said.

About a dozen other states, including Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Assam have also put high-risk areas in lockdown, allowing only essential food supplies and health services.

A woman gets a nasal swab sample taken to test for the coronavirus in Hyderabad, India. (Mahesh Kumar A./The Associated Press)

Renewed restrictions took effect in Hong Kong on Wednesday, with public gatherings limited to four people, restaurants restricted to takeout after 6 p.m., and a one-week closure for gyms, karaoke bars and selected other businesses. Masks also are mandated on public transit for the first time, with the non-compliant being fined.

China is further easing restrictions on domestic tourism after reporting no new local cases of COVID-19 in nine days. A directive from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism dated Tuesday said that tourist sites should allow 50 per cent of their daily visitor capacity, up from 30 per cent, and that inter-province group tours should be resumed.

The National Health Commission said that six new cases were recorded Tuesday, all in people who had arrived from overseas. It has not reported any domestic cases since an outbreak in Beijing that infected more than 330 people before it faded early this month.

China has reported 83,611 confirmed cases and 4,634 deaths since the outbreak began. It does not include people who test positive but show no symptoms in its case count.

Russian authorities have lifted mandatory two-week self-quarantine rules for those arriving as part of easing coronavirus restrictions. It’s one of several steps in an effort to reopen the country after health officials started reporting a slowdown in infections.

Starting Wednesday, both Russian and international travellers will have to either provide coronavirus test results at the border or take a test within three days of arrival in Russia. Self-quarantine will remain mandatory for those who test positive for the virus or whose health deteriorates upon arrival.

The country reported 6,422 new coronavirus cases Wednesday, pushing its confirmed national tally to 746,369, the fourth highest in the world. Officials said 156 people had died of the virus in the last 24 hours, bringing the official death toll to 11,770.

France’s tourism industry received a further boost Wednesday with the partial reopening of Disneyland Paris and the opening up of the top floor of the Eiffel Tower.

Disneyland Paris, Europe’s most frequented theme park resort, is partially reopening to the public, four months after it closed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. It will feature enhanced safety measures including managed attendance, reduced capacity to support physical distancing, and bolstered cleaning and disinfection of rides and spaces.

The top floor of the Eiffel Tower also reopened. The 19th-century iron monument, one of the French capital’s most visited attractions, partially reopened its first two floors on June 26 following its longest closure since the Second World War.

Eiffel Tower officials have said a maximum of 250 people will now be allowed at the top floor at a time to enjoy the panoramic views of the city.

WATCH | Infectious disease specialist on new phases of freedom and avoiding a lockdown:

Quebec’s move to impose mask wearing across the province while opening up more is a reasonable trade-off, says infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch. 6:01

Some 160,000 people in the Spanish region of Catalonia returned to confinement on Wednesday as authorities scrambled to control a fresh surge of coronavirus infections in the area, just weeks after a nationwide lockdown was lifted.

A judge finally approved the regional government’s stay-at-home order for residents of the city of Lleida and six nearby towns on Tuesday night after several days of legal wrangling and political tensions over the issue.

A health worker wearing a protective mask walks past a field hospital outside Arnau de Vilanova hospital in Lleida, Spain. (Nacho Doce/Reuters)

After more than 28,000 deaths from the pandemic, Spain’s government ended a nationwide lockdown on June 21, considering it had dealt with the worst of the virus as the number of contagions had ground to a near halt.

But since then, more than 170 clusters have sprung up around Spain, prompting regional authorities to impose a patchwork of local restrictions, confusing locals and angering businesses.

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