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Coronavirus pandemic: Updates from around the world

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1 min ago

Japanese mayor predicts "second wave" of infections as a new spate of cases emerge

Commuters wearing face masks, walk through ticket gates at a train station in Fukuoka, Japan on May 15.
Commuters wearing face masks, walk through ticket gates at a train station in Fukuoka, Japan on May 15. STR/Jiji Press/AFP/Getty Images

Japan may face a second surge of coronavirus infections, said Kenji Kitahashi, the mayor of the southern port city Kitakyushu.

“We are on the doorstep of a second wave,” he warned, pointing to a string of new infections.

The city, home to about 937,000 residents, had had no new cases for 23 days, said Kitahashi. Then, the virus returned; since last Friday, there have been 14 new cases.

One patient showed no symptoms but tested positive after a precautionary test, according to the mayor.

The city is located in Fukuoka prefecture, where the state of emergency order was lifted on May 14.

The nationwide state of emergency was lifted in some low-risk areas earlier in the month, before being fully lifted everywhere on Monday.

17 min ago

South Korea reports 40 new cases, in biggest one-day jump in weeks

People wearing face masks walk along a bridge across the Han River on May 24, in Seoul.
People wearing face masks walk along a bridge across the Han River on May 24, in Seoul. Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images

South Korea reported 40 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Wednesday, the highest daily figure since early April.

Among these new cases, 37 are believed to be locally transmitted, according to the South Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The last time South Korea's daily case figures were this high was April 8, when it reported 53 cases.

Since then, cases have largely stayed at around 30 or below per day.

Case numbers began spiking again recently, after a new cluster was identified in the capital Seoul's entertainment district of Itaewon, popular for bars and nightclubs. Nearly 250 cases have been linked to the cluster since it emerged on May 9.

The country now has a total of 11,265 cases and 269 related deaths, according to the KCDC.

56 min ago

The US reported nearly 700 deaths today

People wait to cross the street on Rodeo Drive where a sign is displayed asking pedestrians not to push the crosswalk button, on May 26, in Beverly Hills, California.
People wait to cross the street on Rodeo Drive where a sign is displayed asking pedestrians not to push the crosswalk button, on May 26, in Beverly Hills, California. Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty Images

The US reported 18,611 new cases of Covid-19 and 693 related deaths on Tuesday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

That raises the national total to at least 1,680,913 cases and 98,913 deaths.

The totals includes cases from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other US territories, as well as repatriated cases. 

 

1 hr 35 min ago

Australia angered China by calling for a Covid-19 investigation. Now Beijing is targeting its exports

Medical staff prepare to carry out Covid-19 tests on journalists on May 27, at a hotel in Beijing, China.
Medical staff prepare to carry out Covid-19 tests on journalists on May 27, at a hotel in Beijing, China. Andrea Verdelli/Getty Images

It didn't take long after Australia's first calls for an international investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic before rumblings of retaliation came from Beijing.

Australian Foreign Minister Marisa Payne initially voiced support for an investigation on a Sunday morning television show in late April.

Days later, China's ambassador to Australia Chen Jingye responded by suggesting the Chinese people themselves might retaliate with a boycott. "Maybe the ordinary (Chinese) people will say 'Why should we drink Australian wine? Eat Australian beef?'" he told the Australian Financial Review.

Less than one month later, the campaign to punish Australia appears to be in full swing.

On May 12, China stopped accepting beef from four large Australian abattoirs, citing health issues. Five days later, China slapped tariffs of more than 80% on Australian barley imports as part of an anti-dumping probe.

Why this matters: China is Australia's largest trading partner by far, with total trade between the two countries totaling more than $214 billion in 2018 alone. As Australia faces the very real prospect of a coronavirus-related recession, that economic relationship is more important than ever.

With ministerial ties fraying and anti-Australian rhetoric rising in Chinese state media, experts say deep cracks are emerging in relations between the two countries.

"It's very hard to see how in the absence of any discussion we can quickly rebuild trust in the relationship," said Richard McGregor, senior fellow at the Lowy Institute.

Read the full story here:

2 hr 18 min ago

Google plans to reopen some offices in July

The Google office in downtown Detroit, pictured in December, 2019.
The Google office in downtown Detroit, pictured in December, 2019. Shutterstock

Even as some tech companies are telling employees they'll be able to work from home "forever," others are already planning to have a portion of their workforces back on site as early as this summer.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai told employees on Tuesday that the company plans to reopen "more buildings in more cities" starting July 6, but did not specify which.

Employees at those locations will be able to return to the office, but each will be limited to about 10% building occupancy at first, with plans to grow to 30% capacity by September.

"We'll have rigorous health and safety measures in place to ensure social distancing and sanitization guidelines are followed," Pichai wrote in a blog post, "so the office will look and feel different than when you left. Our goal is to be fair in the way we allocate time in the office, while limiting the number of people who come in, consistent with safety protocols."

Read more here:

2 hr 19 min ago

Antibody tests for Covid-19 are wrong half the time, CDC says

A health worker takes a drop of blood for a Covid-19 antibody test at the Diagnostic and Wellness Center on May 5, in Torrance, California.
A health worker takes a drop of blood for a Covid-19 antibody test at the Diagnostic and Wellness Center on May 5, in Torrance, California. Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty Images

Antibody tests used to determine if people have been infected in the past with Covid-19 might be wrong up to half the time, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in new guidance posted online.

Antibody tests, often called serologic tests, look for evidence of an immune response to infection.

"Antibodies in some persons can be detected within the first week of illness onset," the CDC says.

But these tests are not accurate enough to use to make important policy decisions, the CDC said.

"Serologic test results should not be used to make decisions about grouping persons residing in or being admitted to congregate settings, such as schools, dormitories, or correctional facilities ... Serologic test results should not be used to make decisions about returning persons to the workplace," the CDC said.

Health officials or health care providers who are using antibody tests need to use the most accurate test they can find and might need to test people twice, the CDC said in the new guidance.

Read more here:

2 hr 47 min ago

How many people have coronavirus? Sometimes, it's just a guess

People get free Covid-19 tests without needing to show ID, a doctor's note or symptoms at a drive-through and walk up testing center in Arlington, Virginia, on May 26.
People get free Covid-19 tests without needing to show ID, a doctor's note or symptoms at a drive-through and walk up testing center in Arlington, Virginia, on May 26. Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images

The young man admitted to the Newton-Wellesley hospital in Massachusetts was clearly very ill -- so ill that he needed the help of a ventilator to breathe.

The doctors treating him were certain he was infected with the new coronavirus. It was mid-April -- the height of the outbreak in the Boston area. The patient had trouble breathing and had other symptoms.

But the first swab test for coronavirus came back negative. A second test, 24 hours later, came up negative, too. So they tried a different approach.

"The clinical team reached out to me for help in testing a tracheal aspirate," Dr. Michael Misialek, a pathologist at Newton-Wellesley Hospital outside Boston, told CNN.

That's a test that takes a sample from deeper in the respiratory system. It uses a different technique, but doctors are increasingly reporting that they cannot find evidence of Covid-19 infection until they perform such tests.

This tracheal secretion came back positive. "That allowed the team to enroll the patient in a clinical trial," Misialek said. He was treated with one of several immune-based drugs being tried out on coronavirus patients, eventually recovered and was discharged from hospital.

Similar cases were taking place around the world. In London, New York, and elsewhere, health workers were seeing patients arrive with severe symptoms -- but then test negative for Covid-19.

Why is this happening? Some studies are beginning to indicate that when patients are severely ill, the virus is replicating deeper in the respiratory system, beyond the reach of the swabs used for most of the testing, experts say.

Dozens of tests are on the market, but their reliability varies greatly. 

Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, which look for evidence of the virus, are usually reliable -- but not always.

Read the full story here:

2 hr 56 min ago

Peru reports more than 5,000 new coronavirus cases

A worker disinfects an area of El Angel crematorium in Lima on May 21.
A worker disinfects an area of El Angel crematorium in Lima on May 21. Ernesto Benavides/AFP/Getty Images

The number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Peru rose to at least 129,751 on Tuesday — a jump of 5,772 from the previous day, according to the country's health ministry. 

The country also registered at least 159 new related deaths, raising the national death toll to 3,788, the ministry said in a statement.  

Peru has the second-highest number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Latin America, behind Brazil.

Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra announced Friday that a national state of emergency, which includes mandatory social isolation measures, will be extended through June 30. 

3 hr 1 min ago

Coronavirus model now projects 11,000 fewer deaths in the US by August

A medical professional administers a coronavirus test at a drive-thru testing site run by George Washington University Hospital, on May 26, in Washington, DC.
A medical professional administers a coronavirus test at a drive-thru testing site run by George Washington University Hospital, on May 26, in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

A coronavirus model that has been cited by the White House now projects that fewer people will die in the United States by August.

In a Tuesday update, the model revised its forecast to 132,000 deaths— which is 11,000 fewer than it projected a week ago.

Built by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, the model is one of more than a dozen highlighted by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on its website. An ensemble forecast from the CDC, which relies on multiple models, projects that US deaths will exceed 110,000 by June 13. 

The White House cited the IHME model often in April, but it has been criticized by some for its assumptions and performance. The model has undergone a number of revisions in the past few weeks.

As states began reopening, IHME upped its forecast for the number of US deaths, based in part on cell phone mobility data that showed people moving around more. But the institute began revising its projections downwards last week, saying an expected increase in infections had not yet occurred.

Dr. Christopher Murray, the IHME director, said that might have been because of behavioral changes such as mask wearing. The institute has since described its plan for gathering data on how many Americans wear masks. It’s not clear what drove down the model’s projections on Tuesday, however.