A version of this story appeared in the July 28 edition of CNN’s Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction newsletter. Sign up here to receive the need-to-know headlines every weekday.
Just when it seemed that Europe was getting to grips with the coronavirus pandemic, Covid-19 appears to be spreading again.
When the coronavirus was declared a public health emergency of international concern on January 30 – the highest level of alarm under international law – there were less than 100 cases outside of China, and no deaths.
Nearly six months later, the pandemic is still accelerating, with the number of cases worldwide doubling in the past six weeks, the World Health Organization chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, warned yesterday.
“This is the sixth time a global health emergency has been declared under the international health regulations, but it is easily the most severe,” he said.
There are now nearly 16.5 million cases, and more than 650,000 deaths globally.
Across the Asia-Pacific region, where countries were among the first hit by the virus and the first to contain it, there have been new and, in some cases, seemingly unexplained increases in the number of infections. Many of the most recent outbreaks of the virus, in Hong Kong, Australia, China and elsewhere, have come as a surprise. Officials in those countries – previously lauded for their response to the pandemic – now seem to be struggling.
Meanwhile, concerns are mounting that more European countries will reintroduce restrictions, as Spain, Germany, France and Belgium try to combat localized outbreaks with social distancing, curfews and quarantine measures, while desperately weighing the economic costs.
That’s concerning news for countries where the first wave of the virus has yet to come fully under control, let alone in the disaster zones of the United States and Brazil. And it’s especially scary as there are only a few more weeks of summer left in parts of the northern hemisphere, and many epidemiologists expect the virus to peak again in winter, James Griffiths writes.
YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED
Q: Are cancer patients at higher risk of severe complications from Covid-19?
A: The chatter around virtual water-coolers this morning: Google will let employees work from home until at least July 2021. The tech sector has gotten out ahead of other industries in terms of work-from-home policies – Twitter and Facebook have already said they will let some employees work from home indefinitely. But with new coronavirus cases rising across the US and lockdowns being reissued elsewhere, many people are wondering whether Covid-19 might mark the end of the office.
And, for those who are facing the prospect of returning to the workplace as the pandemic rages on, it rightly raises a lot of safety concerns. What should employees expect? And how can they prepare? We asked the experts those questions, and more. Check out their advice on how to safely return to work, when you’re ready to do so.
Send your questions here. Are you a health care worker fighting Covid-19? Message us on WhatsApp about the challenges you’re facing: +1 347-322-0415.
WHAT’S IMPORTANT TODAY
Restrictions return in Europe, as continent braces for second wave
New flare-ups in Europe have sparked a debate over travel restrictions at the height of the summer holiday season, and as countries attempt to revive their tourism industries. Officials are calling for more testing and contact tracing in order to slow the spread of infections, with Germany announcing plans for free, mandatory coronavirus tests for holidaymakers returning from high-risk countries, Reuters reports.
Spain is reeling from the UK’s decision to impose a 14-day quarantine on travelers returning from the country, and has demanded an exemption for islands such as Mallorca, Ibiza and the Canaries – which, with low coronavirus incidence rates, are “safer” than most destinations in the UK, per Spain’s Prime Minister. Britain’s last minute U-turn has left many holidaymakers reassessing their travel plans, weighing staycations and, more existentially, wondering how many more summers coronavirus will ruin.
Elsewhere in Europe, local curfews are being imposed on new hotspots. Strict new measures are being enforced in Belgium, where socializing has been capped to five people and a curfew enforced in Antwerp from 11.30 p.m. to 6 a.m, according to Reuters. Another night-time curfew has also been issued by France for a popular Brittany beach resort after a cluster of cases emerged there, per RFI, a French public radio service.
Two coronavirus vaccines move to final testing phase in US
Two coronavirus vaccines are moving ahead with advanced trials in the United States, marking a much-anticipated milestone in what has become a closely watched global race. The experimental vaccines, developed by the biotechnology company Moderna and pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, will each be tested in large-scale clinical trials of 30,000 participants, with half receiving the shot and the other half the placebo. Both require two doses, spaced several weeks apart. Researchers will then wait to see whether the participants get infected from the virus.
The pace at which these vaccines have reached late-stage trials is unprecedented, but this last phase can’t be sped up, experts say. “Typically vaccine development programs take 15 years on average. This vaccine development program is probably going to take a year and a half,” Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “The one thing you can’t truncate or coalesce or overlap is the Phase 3 trial.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, called the launch of Moderna’s Phase 3 trial a “truly historic event in the history of vaccinology.” But he warned that a vaccine can only end the pandemic if enough people get it, urging officials to overcome public skepticism through community engagement and outreach.
Want to know more about how the vaccine trials work? We break it down here.
Trump and Republican senators put economic openings ahead of suppressing virus
Two months ago, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis stood outside the White House and bragged about his state’s triumph over the coronavirus. Now, DeSantis is presiding over America’s Covid-19 epicenter, and has become a poster child for the failures of the Trump administration (and its closest allies) in responding to the pandemic.
As states like Florida grapple with worsening outbreaks that are overwhelming hospitals and grinding local economies to a halt, a battle is raging in Washington over how much support to give tens of millions of Americans who have been sickened and laid off amid the pandemic.
Covid-19’s impact on the heart: New studies suggest ‘the plot thickening’
ON OUR RADAR
- China yesterday recorded more than 100 new Covid-19 cases for the first time since April. It was also the country’s third straight highest daily spike in local infections since early March.
- Surveillance cameras and artificial intelligence are tackling a pandemic-era challenge: making sure workers are wearing face masks and staying at least six feet apart.
- India’s total number of coronavirus cases surged past 1.5 million today, according to the country’s health ministry. India hit a million cases on July 17, six months after its first infection was discovered. Since then, it took just 12 more days to record another half a million cases.
- Thousands showed up maskless to a Minnesota rodeo after its organizer invited people to come protest government overreach. Also in Minnesota, a Republican county official has resigned after posting an image on Facebook comparing mask mandates to Jews being forced to wear Stars of David in Nazi Germany.
- Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko dismissed Covid-19 as ‘psychosis.’ Now he says he caught it.
- California’s only county without a coronavirus case is investigating its first two infections.
- Dr. Antoinette Helena Akita worked tirelessly to help contain one viral outbreak. She lost her life to another.
- Baseball and women’s basketball have begun, hockey and basketball will return this week and football’s season is just over a month away. Here’s where US sports leagues stand in their plans to play during the pandemic.
- Some retailers are not imposing compulsory masks — not because they don’t believe masks are effective, but because they don’t want to put their workers in the position of having to tell shoppers to put on facial coverings. Mask opponents have sparked violent incidents over requirements to wear them. A security guard at a Family Dollar store in Michigan was shot and killed in May after he told a customer to wear a mask.
With shifting travel advice, impromptu restrictions and frequent flight cancellations, more and more people are seeking more accessible options for a much-needed break from reality.
In light of new quarantine measures, some Britons are trading southern Spain for the driveable “Costa del Cornwall,” while Americans are opting for closer coastal villages instead of exotic islands. If you too plan to use up your vacation days at home, we have a list of everything you might need to plan a truly relaxing staycation.
Try this 5-minute workout to crush burnout
“We could be getting multiple successful vaccines, or we could be getting none. At this point, we just don’t know how things are going to pan out.” – CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta
In today’s episode, Dr. Gupta answers important new questions from listeners. From vaccines and testing delays to outdoor running and marching band practice, Dr. Gupta shares the latest guidance. Listen Now.