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Hong Kong issues mask rules amid COVID-19 surge, Russia rejects vaccine hacking claims

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The coronavirus pandemic has found fresh legs around the world, as confirmed deaths pass 600,000, and countries from the United States to South Africa to India struggle to contain a surge of new infections. Hong Kong issued tougher new rules on wearing face masks, Spain closed overcrowded beaches and Germany reported another outbreak at a slaughterhouse.

Pope Francis said that “the pandemic is showing no sign of stopping” and urged compassion for those whose suffering during the outbreak has been worsened by conflicts.

The World Health Organization said that 259,848 new infections were reported Saturday, its highest one-day tally yet.

While the U.S. leads global infections, South Africa now ranks as the fifth worst-hit country in the pandemic with more than 350,000 cases, or around half of all those confirmed on the continent. Its struggles are a sign of trouble to come for nations with even fewer health-care resources.

Workers wearing personal protective equipment stand outside a church to check the body temperature of people in Hyderabad, India, on Sunday. (Noah Seelam/AFP via Getty Images)

India, which has now confirmed more than one million infections, on Sunday reported a 24-hour record of 38,902 new cases.

In Europe, where infections are far below their peak but local outbreaks are causing concern, leaders of the 27-nation European Union haggled for a third day in Brussels over a proposed 1.85 trillion-euro ($2.1 trillion US) EU budget and coronavirus recovery fund.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said there is “a lot of goodwill, but there are also a lot of positions” in the talks, which have laid bare divisions about how the countries hit hardest by the pandemic, such as Italy and Spain, should be helped. She said the talks, which were initially scheduled to end on Saturday, could still wrap up without a deal.

As scientists around the world race to find a vaccine to halt the pandemic, Russia’s ambassador to Britain on Sunday rejected allegations by the U.S., Britain and China that his country’s intelligence services have sought to steal information about vaccine efforts.

“I don’t believe in this story at all, there is no sense in it,” Ambassador Andrei Kelin said when asked in a BBC interview about the allegations. “I learned about their [the hackers’] existence from British media. In this world, to attribute any kind of computer hackers to any country, it is impossible.”

WATCH | Hackers target COVID-19 vaccine research: 

A hacker group allegedly backed by Russia is trying to steal COVID-19-related vaccine research in Canada, the U.K. and the U.S., according to intelligence agencies in all three countries. 5:25

Confirmed global virus deaths have risen to nearly 603,000, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The United States tops the list with more than 140,000, followed by more than 78,000 in Brazil. Europe as a continent has seen about 200,000 deaths.

The number of confirmed infections worldwide has passed 14.2 million, with 3.7 million in the U.S. and more than two million in Brazil. Experts believe the pandemic’s true toll around the world is much higher because of testing shortages and data collection issues.

Infections have been soaring in U.S. states such as Florida, Texas and Arizona, with many blaming a haphazard, partisan approach to lifting lockdowns, as well as the resistance of some Americans to wearing masks. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Sunday that the situation was so dire in his California city that authorities were considering a new stay-at-home order.

People wear masks on at a beach in Hollywood, Fla., on Sunday. (Joe Cavaretta/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

Even where the situation has been largely brought under control, new outbreaks are prompting the return of restrictions.

Following a recent surge in cases, Hong Kong made the wearing of masks mandatory in all public places and told non-essential civil servants to work from home. Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said the situation in the Asian financial hub is “really critical” and that she sees “no sign” that it’s under control.

In Spain, police in Barcelona have limited access to some of the city’s beloved beaches because sunbathers were ignoring physical distancing regulations amid a resurgence of coronavirus infections. In the Netherlands, authorities in Amsterdam urged people not to visit the city’s famous red light district and have closed off some of the historic district’s narrow streets because they are too busy.

Police officers patrol a beach in Barcelona on Sunday. (Nacho Doce/Reuters)

Slaughterhouses also have featured in outbreaks in the U.S., Germany and elsewhere. Authorities in northwestern Germany’s Vechta county said 66 workers at a chicken slaughterhouse tested positive, though most appeared to have been infected in their free time. An earlier outbreak at a slaughterhouse in western Germany infected more than 1,400 and prompted a partial lockdown.

Speaking on Sunday from his window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis renewed his appeal for an immediate worldwide ceasefire that he said “will permit the peace and security indispensable to supplying the necessary humanitarian assistance.”

What’s happening with coronavirus in Canada

The federal government has said it’s not OK for the Blue Jays to play ball in Toronto during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ottawa informed the team of the decision on Saturday, citing concerns over the public health risks associated with Major League Baseball’s plan for a 60-game season.

Marco Mendicino, minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship, told CBC News Network that the circumstances did not warrant a border-crossing exemption, particularly in light of the amount of cross-border travel needed and the risks that remained. The plan called for the Blue Jays and visiting teams to cross the Canada-U.S. border regularly. 

WATCH | ‘We’re taking decisions on the basis of evidence,’ immigration minister says:

Immigration minister Marco Mendicino explains what had to be considered when deciding whether the Blue Jays could play in Toronto. 6:39

As of 4 p.m. ET on Sunday, Canada had 110,340 coronavirus infections. Provinces and territories listed 97,051 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 8,882.

Ontario added 164 new cases Sunday for a total of 37,604 cases. The province also added 113 new recoveries for a total of 33,407 recoveries.

Quebec announced on Saturday that masks are now mandatory in indoor public spaces across the province.  The new measure is kicking in as the province witnesses a slow but steady increase in the number of COVID-19 cases.

“It’s better to wear a mask than to be confined at home,” Premier Fran├žois Legault said as he made the announcement last Monday. “It’s not fun wearing a mask, but it’s essential.”

WATCH | Quebec’s new mandatory mask rule is in effect:

As of Saturday, Quebecers aged 12 and over will have to wear a medical mask or one handcrafted by cloth in all indoor public spaces. 1:48

The new directive, which applies to people aged 12 and older, coincided with tens of thousands of Quebecers spanning out on vacation with the beginning of the traditional two-week construction holiday.

Quebec is the first province to mandate face-covering, despite criticism from some who say the government shouldn’t have a blanket policy when most regions outside Montreal weren’t deeply affected by COVID-19. 

Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador logged no new infections on Saturday.

Published at Sun, 19 Jul 2020 11:24:56 +0000

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