Coronavirus live news: US questions Beijing cluster figures as WHO eyes 2bn Covid-19 vaccine doses by end of 2021

Coronavirus live news: US questions Beijing cluster figures as WHO eyes 2bn Covid-19 vaccine doses by end of 2021
6.32am EDT06:32 UK study: People with a south Asian background most likely group to die from Covid-19 People with a south Asian background are the most likely group to die from Covid-19 after being admitted to hospital across the UK, according to a study. Data from 30,693 people admitted to 260 hospitals found a 19%…

UK study: People with a south Asian background most likely group to die from Covid-19

People with a south Asian background are the most likely group to die from Covid-19 after being admitted to hospital across the UK, according to a study.

Data from 30,693 people admitted to 260 hospitals found a 19% increased risk of death from coronavirus for those with south Asian backgrounds compared with white people.

Experts behind the study said 40% of the south Asians in the group had diabetes – a “significant factor” in their increased risk of death.

EU leaders meet virtually to discuss EU recovery fund

EU leaders are gathering virtually for a video summit that is attempting to find consensus for an ambitious €750bn (£676bn; $840bn) EU coronavirus recovery fund.

Several northern European nations are unhappy about the EU commission plan because it involves collectively raising €500bn as grants for countries worst hit by the pandemic, notably Italy and Spain.

A group known as the “frugal four” – Sweden, Denmark, Austria and the Netherlands – have made clear their continued opposition to grants, rather than loans. There are also divisions over the proposed €1.1tn EU budget.

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the French president, Emmanuel Macron, are backing the commission’s plan. More on that here:


UK lowers Covid-19 alert level

The UK’s chief medical officers have agreed that the Covid-19 threat level should be lowered one notch to “epidemic is in general circulation” from “transmission is high or rising exponentially”.

The joint biosecurity centre recommended the Covid-19 alert level should move from level 4 (a Covid-19 epidemic is in general circulation; transmission is high or rising exponentially) to level 3 (a Covid-19 epidemic is in general circulation).

In a statement the chief medical officers of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland said:

There has been a steady decrease in cases we have seen in all four nations, and this continues.

It does not mean that the pandemic is over. The virus is still in general circulation, and localised outbreaks are likely to occur.

Reacting to the UK CMOs’ decision to lower the UK’s alert level from level 4 to level 3 , the UK health secretary, Matt Hancock, said:

The UK moving to a lower alert level is a big moment for the country, and a real testament to the British people’s determination to beat this virus.

The government’s plan is working. Infection rates are rapidly falling, we have protected the NHS and, thanks to the hard work of millions in our health and social care services, we are getting the country back on her feet.


Indonesia reported 1,041 new coronavirus infections on Friday, taking its total number of cases to 43,803.

Health ministry official Achmad Yurianto said there were 34 more deaths reported, with total fatalities now at 2,373, the highest coronavirus death toll in East Asia outside of China.

So far, 366,581 people have been tested, according to the country’s COVID-19 task force.

Akhtar Mohammad Makoii

Afghanistan has recorded its lowest daily infections to Covid-19 since 14 May.

The war-torn nation is struggling with lack of testing capacity while violence rages on across the country.

The country’s health ministry has detected 346 new Covid-19 infections from 893 tests, taking the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 27,878. The number of deaths has risen by 2 to 548.

Afghanistan recorded its worst day of the crisis on Thursday after a record 42 patients died from the virus.

The country, which has admitted it has a lack of testing capacity, has tested 62,492 suspected patients since the outbreak began. There have been 7,962 recoveries.

The capital, Kabul, still leads new daily infections as most new cases (231) have been reported in the capital, the country’s worst-affected area in both number of confirmed transmissions and deaths with 11,570 cases and 126 deaths.

No official figures were released in the western province of Herat in a week. The province’s laboratory – which is responsible for testing samples of patients in Herat and nearby areas – has stopped work due to a lack of testing capacity. The province’s governor has said that the actual number of infections may be more than 60,000 in the province as 280 patients with Covid-19 symptoms died during last week.

The Afghan health ministry has previously said it was unable to increase testing for coronavirus due to a lack of laboratories and an overload of suspected patients and medical workers would determine new coronavirus patients through their symptoms, rather than through test

Northern province of Takhar where at least 7 students were killed and 7 wounded in an explosion at a religious school on Thursday, reported five new infections to Covid-19. It comes as the United Nations’ annual Children in Armed Conflict report, released on Monday, found Afghanistan was the deadliest country for children for the fifth year straight.

Kunduz province, also in the north, reported six new cases. At least seven security forces were killed in a clash with the Taliban in the province on Thursday night.

Virus ‘was already in Italy in December’

In Italy traces of coronavirus have been found in samples taken from sewage water in Milan and Turin in December, according to a study by Italy’s Higher Health Institute (ISS).

Researchers examined 40 samples collected between October 2019 and February 2020, as well as 24 control samples between September 2018 and June 2019.

Coronavirus traces were also found in wastewater samples collected in Bologna on 29 January.

In a statement Giuseppina La Rossa, from the ISS’s department of environment and health said:

The results, confirmed in two different laboratories using two different methods, showed the presence of SARS-COV-2 RNA in samples taken in Milan and Turin on 18 December 2019 and in Bologna on 29 January 2020.

Further samples taken from the same cities in January and February also found traces of Covid-19, while those collected in October and November gave negative results, La Rossa added.

Italy’s first locally transmitted coronavirus case was confirmed in Lombardy, the region surrounding Milan, on 20 February, and in Turin, in Piedmont, on 22 February. The virus has so far killed over 16,500 people in Lombardy and 4,032 in Piedmont.

The Lombardy region still accounts for the largest daily rise in new infections, with 226 out of 333 cases registered there on Thursday. There were 66 more fatalities on Thursday, 36 in Lombardy, bringing the death toll across the country to 34,514.

Although new clusters have emerged since Italy started easing the lockdown in early May, for example in the regions of Lazio and Molise, the virus has mostly been kept at bay, with the widespread use of face masks and physical distancing believed to play a significant role.


Czech Republic reports jump in new coronavirus cases

The Czech Republic reported its biggest one-day jump in new coronavirus cases in two months on Friday, with the daily rise exceeding 100 for only the third time since mid-April, Reuters reports.

The number of new cases was 118 on Thursday, the Health Ministry said, the largest daily rise since April 21. The central European country has since May been relaxing rules to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The country had reported 10,283 cases as of Friday morning, of which almost three quarters have recovered. Its death toll of 334 is a fraction of those seen it its western neighbours.

With cases waning, the government has started focusing on localised measures rather than nationwide bans to contain the spread of the virus.

According to health officials, the country has two hot spots in Prague and the eastern mining region of Karvina.

A potential coronavirus vaccine being developed by China’s Clover Biopharmaceuticals using GlaxoSmithKline’s vaccine booster is now in early-stage testing in humans, the companies said on Friday.

Clover said initial safety data from the trial, which is enrolling about 150 adults and also investigating the vaccine in combination with Dynavax’s adjuvant, is expected in August this year, Reuters reports.

Chinese officials have released genome data for the coronavirus traced to a recent cluster in Beijing, saying it has similarities to a European strain.

China has been under pressure to share the data with the World Health Organisation.

It comes after Beijing reported nearly 200 fresh Covid-19 infections. Tens of thousands of people are being tested in the city, where neighbourhoods are under lockdown and schools shut. The cluster has been traced to a sprawling wholesale market in the city.

In an article published on Friday on the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection’s website CDC official Zhang Yong said:

According to preliminary genomic and epidemiological study results, the virus is from Europe, but it is different from the virus currently spreading in Europe.

It’s older than the virus currently spreading in Europe.

It could have been hidden in imported frozen food products, or it was lurking in some dark and humid environment such as Xinfadi, with the environment not having been disinfected or sterilised.

Scientists have been cautious over drawing early conclusion about the link.

Ben Cowling, a professor at the University of Hong Kong’s School of Public Health, told the AFP news agency.

It is possible that the virus now causing an outbreak in Beijing travelled from Wuhan to Europe and now back to China .

He added that patient zero hadn’t been identified yet and that it may be too late to find out how the latest cluster started.

The first trial results of a coronavirus vaccine being developed by CureVac in Germany are expected in two months, German news website Focus Online reported on Friday.

Reuters reports that CureVac, an unlisted German company, said this week that the first meaningful results could be available in September or October and, under favourable conditions, it could be approved by the middle of next year.

More on Curevac’s work from its own website here.

Public debt in UK exceeds 100% for first time since the 60s

Government borrowing in the UK in May is predicted to have hit 55.2 billion – nearly nine times higher than in the same month a year ago, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Office for National Statistics (ONS)

Borrowing was £103.7 billion in the financial year to date (April-May 2020).

This is £87.0 billion more than the same time last year and the highest in any April-May period since current records began in 1993

June 19, 2020

Public sector debt at the end of May 2020 was 100.9% of gross domestic product, the first time that debt as a percentage of GDP has exceeded 100% since the financial year ending March 1963, said the ONS.

The figure is slightly lower than the 62.1 billion of borrowing in April, according to the ONS, although the organisation also revised down that figure by 13.6 billion to 48.5 billion on Friday.

Reacting to this morning’s figures, UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak said they show “coronavirus is having a severe impact on our public finances”. He said:

The best way to restore our public finances to a more sustainable footing is to safely reopen our economy so people can return to work.

We’ve set out our plan to do this in a gradual and safe fashion, including reopening high streets across the country this week, as we kickstart our economic recovery.


India: Lockdown reimposed in Chennai

Indian officials have reimposed a lockdown in the southern city of Chennai and three neighbouring districts.

The BBC reports that only essential services and neighbourhood grocery shops will be permitted to function under the 12-day lockdown, set to end on 30 June.

Chennai is India’s sixth-largest city and the capital of Tamil Nadu state. It has more than 37,000 of Tamil Nadu’s confirmed 50,000 infections, making it one of India’s largest hotspots.

With just over 600 deaths in total, the state has a relatively low mortality rate – but its death toll is being reviewed after reports suggested that at least 200 deaths in Chennai were not included in the official tally.

It is the only city to reimpose a lockdown to curb the rise in infections.

India has the fourth-highest caseload in the world, with more than 350,000 confirmed cases of the disease. Daily reports of infections are increasing, with Tamil Nadu among the worst-affected states.

This is Alexandra Topping taking the reins of the global coronavirus liveblog for the next few hours. As ever, if you have tips or contributions to make – or you think we’ve neglected the news where you are, please do get in touch. My email is and I’m @lexytopping on Twitter, my DMs are open.


That’s it from me, Helen Sullivan, for today. I leave you momentarily in the company of Armando Iannucci and his family, who are using lockdown to watch the film Cats five minutes at a time:

I’m at home with my wife, children and dogs. We’ve drifted into a communal understanding of watching something chewy, like Chernobyl, then Gogglebox. It ends with us doing impressions in very bad taste of Craig Cash: “In Kiev, there’s been an explosion in reactor four …” We’ve reached the gallows humour that I expect every family has reached as we hit week 13 of lockdown.

For some reason, Cats turned up unannounced on our Sky box. I’ve never been a party to that school of: it’s so bad, it’s good. But everything in Cats is so bad, from the scripts to the effects, we’ve had to restrict ourselves to five minutes a night, just to prolong the exquisite agony.


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