September 24 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Tara John and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, September 25, 2020
23 Posts
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9:13 a.m. ET, September 24, 2020

Europe is at a "decisive moment" in the second wave. Here's what's happening on the continent:

From CNN's Simon Cullen, James Frater, Nadine Schmidt, Pierre Bairin and Gaëlle Fournier

People line up at a mobile Covid-19 testing center in Strasbourg, France, on September 23.
People line up at a mobile Covid-19 testing center in Strasbourg, France, on September 23. Jean-Francois Badias/AP

Europe is at a “decisive” point in dealing with its second wave of Covid-19 infections, the European Union's Health Commissioner warned, adding the actions that people take now will determine the severity of restrictions needed in the coming months.

“Today we're here to call on everyone to act decisively. It might be our last chance to prevent a repeat of last spring,” Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said at a news conference Thursday. “Moreover, autumn and winter are the time of the year for more respiratory illnesses including seasonal influenza."

Prevent severe lockdowns: Kyriakides said people should not lower their guard because “the crisis is not behind us," and cautioned against a situation where governments are forced to impose more severe lockdowns.

“(Such lockdowns) will be detrimental -- detrimental to our mental health, detrimental to our economies, detrimental to the well-being and education of our children, detrimental to our working and daily lives.”

Mental health risk: This comes as the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said it’s concerned by the increase in cases across the continent, but also warns that re-imposing lockdown rules is likely to affect people’s mental health.

Changing quarantine rules: The ECDC also indicated there is scope for changing the quarantine rules for those who are exposed to the virus -- by potentially reducing the 14 day quarantine to 10 days after exposure if a person returns a negative test at that point.

Pandemic is not uniform: While there has been an increase in cases throughout Europe, the ECDC says the pandemic is not having the same affect in all countries.

In several countries the observed upsurge correlates with increased testing rates and intense transmission among individuals between 15 and 49 years of age. In such countries most detections concern mild or asymptomatic cases.”

“However, in a number of other countries, the upsurge coincides with high or increasing notification rates in older individuals and, consequently, an increased proportion of hospitalized and severe cases.”

Austria bans "after-ski" parties: The Austrian ski season will go ahead but après ski parties will be banned, the country’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz says.

“Skiing, eating out, nature and enjoying the hospitality, outdoor activities, shopping -- not just in ski resorts but also in cities, a wellness vacation in Austria, culture tourism: all that will be possible this coming winter,” Kurz said at a news briefing Thursday. "What won't be possible is après ski the way we know it from the past. The risk to get infected is simply too high."

Pushback against new French restrictions: Benoît Payan, the deputy mayor of Marseille, has asked for a "10-day delay" to tough restrictions the French government will impose from Monday, following a surge in cases there. 

Payan said France's second largest city had not been adequately consulted or warned about the new measures, leading to “incomprehension” and “anger” from local officials.

Renaud Muselier, president of the regional council of Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur, which includes Marseille, referred to the closures as a “collective punishment” in a statement published on Twitter. 

6:43 a.m. ET, September 24, 2020

From Anguilla to Barbados: The exotic destinations now competing for remote workers

From CNN's Tamara Hardingham-Gill

At least 1,363 people have submitted applications for the "12-month Barbados Welcome Stamp."
At least 1,363 people have submitted applications for the "12-month Barbados Welcome Stamp." Courtesy Barbados Tourism Marketing

Working from home has become normality for many of us due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

While some have struggled to adapt to this new working mode, others have come to the welcome realization that their job requirements can be completed from anywhere and are beginning to explore their options.

As a result, a number of exotic destinations which have seen their tourism revenue pretty much vanish over the past few months are using the situation to their advantage by offering extended visas to remote workers in a bid to inject money into their economies.

From Anguilla to Barbados, read the full article to see five of the most alluring destinations currently vying for remote workers:

6:29 a.m. ET, September 24, 2020

Over 90% of Americans are susceptible to virus, says CDC chief, as 22 states report rising cases

From CNN's Christina Maxouris

Dr. Robert Redfield testifies in Washington, DC, on September 23.
Dr. Robert Redfield testifies in Washington, DC, on September 23. Alex Edelman/Pool/AP

While nearly half of US states now report a rise in new Covid-19 cases, a leading public health official announced the majority of Americans remain susceptible to the virus.

Speaking to the Senate Health Committee this week, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield said preliminary results on the first round of a study by the agency show more than 90% of the population is susceptible.

That means more than 295 million Americans could still get infected with the virus.

About 6.9 million people across the country have already contracted the illness and more than 200,000 people have died since the start of the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The US continues to lead the world in both deaths and infections and now experts warn that the spread of the virus could get much worse with schools now open and flu season on its way.

At least 22 states -- mostly across the US heartland and Midwest -- are reporting an increase in new Covid-19 cases compared to the previous week. Nationwide, the US is averaging more than 43,000 new cases per day -- about double what the country was averaging back in June when lockdown restrictions were easing.

And the country is no longer seeing the kind of decline in deaths it was seeing in late August, according to infectious diseases expert Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo.

Marrazzo said it's not unfathomable another 100,000 Americans could die by the end of the year. Researchers with the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation predict a total of more than 378,000 Americans will have died from Covid-19 by January 1.

"The bottom line is that it doesn't matter what side of the aisle you're on politically," Marrazzo said during an Infectious Diseases Society of America briefing Wednesday. "The numbers are the numbers. You can't argue with them. And they are not going in the right direction."

Read the full story:

6:06 a.m. ET, September 24, 2020

Beijing has "punished" more than 1,100 officials over virus prevention measures

From CNN's Beijing Bureau

The city of Beijing has "punished" 1,112 officials and public servants for failing to carry out Covid-19 prevention and control measures.

“The city has taken strict measures to prevent and control the disease and has held Communist Party members and public officials who failed to fulfil their duties accountably,” read a statement from the Beijing Municipal People’s Congress, the Chinese capital’s rubber-stamp legislature.

The statement did not contain details of the punishments meted out to officials.

After the wholesale food market outbreak in Beijing in June, a report from state media outlet CGTN stated that two local officials were "sacked and punished" for "failing in their duty in COVID-19 prevention and control work."
In Hubei province in May, "multiple officials" were removed from their posts for similar reasons, according to a report by the Hubei Daily, the official newspaper of the provincial Communist Party committee. Its capital, Wuhan, was the original epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in China.
In May, Xia Guohua, deputy head of the Hubei Provincial Statistics Bureau, was removed from his post and issued with a serious warning, as well as having a serious demerit recorded against him for misconduct over distributing masks that didn't stand up to government regulations.

The latest statement from Beijing added that there have been 935 confirmed cases reported in the city since the pandemic began. A total of 926 cases have been cured and discharged, while 9 people have died, it said. All confirmed cases in the hospital have been cleared since August 25.

5:54 a.m. ET, September 24, 2020

20,000 flags placed on National Mall to commemorate US virus deaths

From CNN's Lauren M. Johnson

American flags are placed on the National Mall in Washington, DC, on September 22, in memory of the more than 200,000 people who have died from Covid-19 nationwide.
American flags are placed on the National Mall in Washington, DC, on September 22, in memory of the more than 200,000 people who have died from Covid-19 nationwide. Chen Mengtong/China News Service/Getty Images

Twenty thousand American flags have been placed on the National Mall as part of a memorial paying tribute to the more than 200,000 people nationwide who have died from the coronavirus.

The installation, called a Covid Memorial Project, was organized by a group of friends in the Washington DC area who raised money online. They then gathered volunteers to place the flags on the mall on Tuesday.

Each of the 20,000 flags represents 10 American lives that have been lost to the virus this year, according to the group's GoFundMe page.

"This extreme loss of life is staggering -- but was not inevitable: the President's poor handling of the virus response has led to tens of thousands of excess deaths," organizers wrote on the fundraising site.
"And this administration has done nothing to memorialize this stunning number of lives lost -- instead choosing to downplay, minimize, and ignore whenever possible. No flags lowered, no service held, no day of mourning declared -- so the COVID Memorial Project seeks to simply say: these lives are more than a statistic -- they were family, friends, neighbors."

Read the full story:

4:59 a.m. ET, September 24, 2020

Hungary welcomes 20,000 soccer fans for UEFA Super Cup, amid growing virus fears

From CNN's George Ramsay

TV viewers tuning in to Thursday's UEFA Super Cup can be excused for thinking they've stumbled across highlights of a months-old fixture, so accustomed have they become to seeing sparse -- or no -- crowds in attendance.

In the age of coronavirus, the sight of 20,000 fans in the Puskas Arena will be an arresting one as Bayern Munich and Sevilla, last season's Champions League and Europa League winners, meet in the Hungarian capital of Budapest at the Puskas Arena.
The stadium has a 68,000 capacity, but European governing body UEFA's plan is for the match to have a reduced capacity of up to 30% of the venue.
The game comes as Europe faces a second wave of Covid-19 infections, stoking fears it could cause a rise in cases.

According to the World Health Organization, there have been 20,450 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Hungary and 702 deaths, but like much of Europe, the country faces a second wave of cases with more than 6,000 infections recorded last week.

"I really get a stomach ache when it comes to the Super Cup," Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Soeder said this week.

Soeder warned against the game becoming a "football-Ischgl" -- a reference to the Austrian ski resort that contributed towards the virus' spread across Europe -- and his concerns were echoed by Bayern executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

"I think everyone's stomachs are churning," Rummenigge told ZDF.

Read the full story here:

4:33 a.m. ET, September 24, 2020

Israel moves to significantly tighten lockdown restrictions as cases rise

From CNN's Oren Liebermann in Jerusalem

Israel has announced a significant tightening of restrictions during its second general lockdown, as numbers of new coronavirus cases continue to rise, including strict limits on protests and prayer groups and a wider closure of places of work.

The new rules follow hours of debate in Israel’s coronavirus cabinet over recent days, during which senior lawmakers struggled to present a unified front in agreeing a master plan to combat the pandemic.

“In order to save the lives of Israeli citizens, it is incumbent upon us now to impose a full closure for two weeks - from this Friday until the end of Simchat Torah,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the beginning of the cabinet meeting, referring to the conclusion of the current holiday period.
“Afterwards, we will have an additional two weeks of closure, I hope with fewer restrictions, but … this depends upon the infection rates. The goal is to reduce the infection rate, and … to save many Israeli lives.” Netanyahu said.

The Deputy Director-General of the Health Ministry, Itamar Grotto, expressed opposition to the announcement, telling Israeli Radio there was no need to impose a sweeping closure on workplaces to reduce the infection rate. But Grotto, who participated in the cabinet meeting, said it was the government’s decision.

The tougher restrictions include: a general closure of businesses and workplaces, apart from those deemed necessary and essential services, such as food stores and pharmacies, which will remain open. Open-air markets will be closed.

Prayer and protest will be allowed only in open spaces within 1 km (0.6 miles) of home and with a limit of 20 people. However, synagogues will be allowed to open with certain restrictions on the upcoming one-day holiday of Yom Kippur, raising concerns that infections could increase if worshippers don’t abide by the regulations.

Public transportation will operate on a limited basis. A decision has not yet been made on whether to close Ben Gurion International Airport outside Tel Aviv.

The new restrictions still require approval from the Knesset, which is expected later Thursday.

New cases: On Wednesday, Israel recorded 6,808 new coronavirus cases, according to the Ministry of Health, after a new daily high of 6,861 cases were recorded a day earlier. A total of 1,335 people have died in Israel as a result of coronavirus.

4:17 a.m. ET, September 24, 2020

Second German minister in coronavirus quarantine

From CNN's Nadine Schmidt in Berlin

Germany's Economy Minister Peter Altmaier has gone into coronavirus quarantine -- the country’s second cabinet member to do so.

Altmaier posted on Twitter on Wednesday night that he would stay home after coming into contact with “an employee of an EU minister present at the Trade Council in Berlin who tested positive for Corona.”

He went on to say: “As a precaution, I have put myself in domestic quarantine. I was tested negative on Friday, I am doing very well.”

Earlier Wednesday, Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas announced that he quarantined himself after one of his bodyguards tested positive for coronavirus, forcing Maas to cancel a planned trip to Jordan.

Germany's number of confirmed coronavirus cases rose by 2,143 to 278,070 within the past 24 hours, according to data from the country's infectious disease agency, the Robert Koch Institute.

The death toll increased by 19 to 9,428, the tally showed.

4:02 a.m. ET, September 24, 2020

UK mulling vaccine trials that deliberately expose volunteers to Covid-19

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite, Nada Bashir, and Jamie Gumbrecht

The British government is exploring the possibility of clinical trials in which volunteers are deliberately exposed to coronavirus to test the effectiveness of vaccine candidates, the UK Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) revealed Wednesday in a statement.

"We are working with partners to understand how we might collaborate on the potential development of a COVID-19 vaccine through human challenge studies," a government spokesperson said.
"These discussions are part of our work to research ways of treating, limiting and hopefully preventing the virus so we can end the pandemic sooner," the spokesperson added.

In so-called "challenge trials," researchers give study subjects an experimental vaccine and then intentionally expose them to coronavirus to see if the vaccine works. Such trials were used in early research with smallpox, yellow fever and malaria.

However, deliberately infecting study participants poses more risks and raises ethical concerns, compared to randomized controlled trials, where study subjects receive a vaccine or a placebo, and researchers monitor to see if they become ill as they go about their daily lives.

The World Health Organization issued guidance in May saying challenge studies can be "substantially faster" and more effective than other methods, in part because fewer participants need to be exposed to experimental vaccines and because they can be used to compare potential vaccines.

It also said controlled infection trials could be ethically acceptable if they met certain criteria. These include choosing young and healthy adults as participants, starting with low doses, ensuring public engagement, and providing high-quality care and close monitoring.

But in July, members of the US National Institutes of Health "Accelerating Covid-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines" (ACTIV) Working Group said such trials would not hasten development of a vaccine.

Read the full story: