A more infectious mutation of Covid-19 has been found in Indonesia, the Jakarta-based Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology said on Sunday, as the country’s caseload surges.
Indonesia reported 2,858 new infections on Sunday, data from the health ministry showed, below the previous day’s record 3,308 cases but above the past month’s daily average.
Its total caseload now stands at 172,053, with 7,343 coronavirus-related deaths.
The “infectious but milder” D614G mutation of the virus has been found in genome sequencing data from samples collected by the institute, deputy director Herawati Sudoyo told Reuters, adding that more study is required to determine whether that was behind the recent rise in cases.
The strain, which the World Health Organisation said was identified in February and has been circulating in Europe and the Americas, has also been found in neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia.
One of Brazil’s most celebrated tourist destinations, the paradisiacal archipelago of Fernando de Noronha, has announced it is reopening to outsiders – as long as they have had Covid-19.
Tourists have been banned from the Unesco world heritage site, which Charles Darwin visited in 1832, since late March when the pandemic forced many parts of Brazil into partial shutdown.
Since then more than 120,000 Brazilians have died, the world’s second highest death toll, and president Jair Bolsonaro faces accusations of catastrophically mismanaging the crisis by undermining containment measures.
But from Tuesday visitors will be allowed into Fernando de Noronha, 211 miles off Brazil’s north-eastern coast, if they can prove they have been infected and recovered.
You can read more on this from our Latin America correspondent, Tom Phillips, here:
On the subject of live music, which many will be yearning for after events across the globe were cancelled due to the pandemic, a huge two-hour long drive-in concert was held in Indonesia on Saturday night.
According to Reuters, around 900 listeners in 300 cars honked and flashed their lights along as pop ensemble Kahitna at Jakarta International Expo.
It was a reminder of the good times before the coronavirus pandemic brought the music industry to a juddering halt, said Chaeruddin Syah, one of the concert organisers. He told Reuters:
Our economy has declined for four to five months, we have not worked at all and have not made any money.
We hope this concert can provide solutions and inspiration to the entertainment industry.”
Indonesia, which is grappling with a surge in virus infections, racked up its biggest daily increase in cases for a third straight day on Saturday. The south-east Asian nation has tallied about 170,000 infections and 7,261 deaths.
The organisers of Saturday’s event said they had prioritised safety, asking listeners to provide negative test results and wear masks.
Optimistic news for festival lovers. Glastonbury, one of the world’s largest music festivals which draws in around 200,000 revellers annually, is still hoped to go ahead in June 2021.
Co-organiser Emily Eavis said there were no plans to move the event back until September 2021 and that they were “still very much aiming for June”.
The festival, which is held in Somerset in England, was due to celebrate its 50th anniversary in June this year but was cancelled in March as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Ticket holders were allowed to carry their initial deposit for the event over to 2021, and according to Eavis, few people have asked for a refund.
Eyam, “the plague village” famous for quarantining itself following the 1665 bubonic plague outbreak, will hold its annual memorial service online today due to Covid-19 fears.
During the plague, residents in the Derbyshire village in England locked themselves away for more than a year to avoid spreading the disease, now its reverend Mike Gilbert said the village had decided to cancel the commemoration and costume procession after it received dozens of enquiries about visiting.
The annual service takes place on the final Sunday of August at the Cucklet Delph church to remember the 260 people – around 75% of the village’s population – who lost their lives to the plague.
But this year it will be streamed on Eyam Parish Church’s Facebook page after Gilbert received press enquiries from countries including Holland, America, Argentine and France, the BBC reports.
German police arrest 300 at rally against coronavirus measures
Russia's Covid-19 tally nears 1 million
Meanwhile, the UK’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, is facing a showdown with furious MPs within his own party over his government’s chaotic handling of Covid-19.
A new poll by Opinium for the Observer shows the official opposition, Labour, is now level-pegging with the Tories for the first time since last summer, before Johnson was leader.
As MPs prepare to return to Westminster on Tuesday, Charles Walker, who is vice-chair of the 1922 committee of Conservative backbenchers, said that a recent string of U-turns had left many colleagues in despair, with some struggling to support and defend their government to constituents. Governing by U-turn in this way, he said, was unsustainable.
Walker, who is normally counted as a firm Johnson loyalist, said:
Too often it looks like this government licks its finger and sticks it in the air to see which way the wind is blowing. This is not a sustainable way to approach the business of governing and government.
You can read more on this from the Observer’s political editor Toby Helm here:
And if you fancy some further reading, here’s a handy list of all the recent times the UK government has U-turned on its own policies:
Academics in the UK have warned that reopening universities could spark a second wave of Covid-19 unless they switch to remote learning.
The movement of an expected one million students around Britain as they return to universities between September and October has led University and College Union (UCU) to warn the government is “encouraging a public health crisis”.
UCU general secretary Jo Grady said the mass movement “could lead to universities being the care homes of any second wave of Covid”.
She also accused the government of a lack of planning, with more students expected on campuses following the admissions fiasco as data emerges that infection rates are increasing among younger people.
So the very people who are increasingly getting infected by this virus are being encouraged in mass numbers to move all around the country and congregate and live together.”
The UCU wants students to avoid campuses until Christmas unless a testing scheme begins operating at universities.
It comes after a group of scientists recommended universities test all students and staff for coronavirus as they arrive on campus and avoid face-to-face teaching.
Independent Sage reported on 21 August that all courses should be offered online – apart from those which are lab or practice-based – as in-person teaching carries a higher risk of virus transmission.
Global case number passes 25 million
More than 25 million people around the world have been infected with Covid-19, according to the Johns Hopkins University, which has been monitoring case numbers throughout the pandemic.
The university’s tracker has just been updated to reflect the global tally passing the milestone.
It said 842,702 people have died.
The number of cases includes more than 5.96 million people in the US, more than 3.84 million in Brazil, and 3.52 million in India - the three most affected countries. Also on Sunday, India reported the highest single day rise in case numbers so far, overtaking the record set by the US back in July.
The official number of global coronavirus cases is now at least five times the number of severe influenza illnesses recorded annually, according to World Health Organization data.
Reuters reports that around the world, there have been more than 840,000 deaths, considered a lagging indicator given the two-week incubation period of the virus. That has exceeded the upper range of 290,000 to 650,000 annual deaths linked to influenza.