Brazilian health minister ill with suspected Covid case
Brazilian Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello has fallen ill with a suspected case of Covid-19, the ministry’s press office said on Tuesday, as the country battles with the third-worst coronavirus outbreak globally, with nearly 5.3 million cases.Reuters reports that the ministry said Pazuello had a fever on Tuesday and would be tested for Covid-19. On Monday, the minister had missed a public event with President Jair Bolsonaro.
“He had a small indisposition and went to the hospital,” Bolsonaro said at the event. The ministry said on Monday that Pazuello had been discharged and was at home.
Bolsonaro has sought to downplay the severity of the coronavirus, calling it a little flu. The president fell ill with a mild case of Covid-19 earlier this year, and several of his cabinet ministers have been infected previously.Two different health ministers resigned in the span of roughly a month before Bolsonaro appointed Pazuello. Bolsonaro has endorsed the drug hydroxychloroquine for treating coronavirus, despite its being unproven for that purpose; the former ministers had advised a more cautious approach.
Pazuello, who does not hold a medical degree, expanded access to hydroxychloroquine and allowed for public doctors to prescribe it for almost anyone who tests positive for coronavirus.
England’s widening north-south political divide dominates the papers after Boris Johnson’s government imposed tier 3 restrictions on Manchester despite fierce resistance from the city’s mayor, Andy Burnham.
The Guardian reports that Burnham accused the prime minister of playing a “game of poker with people’s lives” after the imposition of the highest level of restrictions on the city and surrounding area:
Cathay to cut 5,900 jobs
Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd said on Wednesday it would cut 5,900 jobs and end its regional Cathay Dragon brand as it grapples with a plunge in demand from the coronavirus pandemic, Reuters. The restructuring will cost HK$2.2 billion ($283.9 million) and the airline will also seek changes in conditions in its contracts with cabin crew and pilots, it told the stock exchange.
Overall, it will cut 8,500 positions, or 24% of its normal headcount, but that includes 2,600 roles currently unfilled due to cost reduction initiatives, Cathay said.
“The global pandemic continues to have a devastating impact on aviation and the hard truth is we must fundamentally restructure the group to survive,” Cathay Chief Executive Augustus Tang said in a statement.The International Air Transport Association expects it will take until 2024 for passenger traffic to recover to pre-Covid-levels.The airline, which has stored around 40% of its fleet outside Hong Kong, said on Monday it planned to operate less than 50% of its pre-pandemic capacity in 2021.
After receiving a $5 billion rescue package led by the Hong Kong government in June, it had been conducting a strategic review that analysts expected would result in major job losses because it has been bleeding HK$1.5 billion to HK$2 billion of cash a month.
New Zealand records 25 new coronavirus cases including two in community
Charlotte Graham McLay reports:
Health officials in New Zealand recorded 25 new cases of Covid-19 on Wednesday – the highest number in a single day in many weeks – with two of the instances diagnosed in the community. The others were diagnosed in managed isolation facilities, where all travelers entering New Zealand must spend a fortnight. 18 of those were recorded from Russian and Ukraine fishing crews who had been flown to New Zealand to work on fishing boats, and are staying in a quarantine hotel. Only New Zealanders and their families are permitted to enter the country – unless they are essential workers who obtain visa exemptions. The infected arrivals from Moscow were among 235 fishing crews who arrived from Russia via Singapore on a charter flight, remaining on the plane during the Singapore stop. The workers were all tested for Covid-19 before they left Russia, said Ashley Bloomfield, New Zealand’s director-general of health, and two people were barred from boarding the plane due to positive tests.“At least one person must have boarded that plane who was infectious,” Bloomfield told reporters in Wellington. “The fact that we’ve found these infections is absolutely the system working.”The two community cases were contacts of a ports worker whose case was reported on Sunday. That case was the first instance of community transmission in New Zealand since 25 September.
There are currently 56 active cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand, 53 of them in managed isolation facilities. There have been 1,556 total confirmed cases of the virus in New Zealand, with 25 deaths.
Chinese vaccines have been given to 60,000 people worldwide
North Dakota passes 800 cases per million
Charlotte Graham McLay writes:
We reported this story last week about American doctors moving to New Zealand during the Covid-19 pandemic – with their in-demand skills making them one of the only groups of people who can obtain visa exemptions to enter the country at the moment.Medical recruiting firms in both New Zealand and the United States told us the South Pacific nation was in hot demand for US doctors due to New Zealand’s free healthcare, scientific regard given to doctors during the pandemic, better management of the coronavirus, and more progressive politics. On Wednesday, New Zealand’s immigration agency told us that it wasn’t just American doctors making the move. Since 10 August alone, the agency has approved visa exemptions for 80 Indian health workers to come to New Zealand, 74 Britons, 41 Filipinos, and 36 from the US.They’ve also approved visa exemptions for 24 South Africans, 11 medical workers from Ireland and Australia, 9 from Canada, and a handful from each of 20 other countries from Belgium to Zambia. And that’s just since 10 August -- the agency did not provide earlier figures.
New Zealand has seen, so far, one of the lowest Covid-19 death tolls in the world after a strict, early lockdown. Normal life here has largely resumed, except for strict border controls that bar anyone except New Zealanders and their families from entering the country.
The five percent of people in Britain predicted by a new tool to be at highest risk from Covid-19 accounted for three-quarters of deaths during the first wave of the pandemic, researchers reported Wednesday.
Tthe risk-assessment method - which also predicts the chances of hospitalisation - could help identify the small percentage of the population most in need of being shielded from the virus, they reported in BMJ, a medical journal.
“The tool provides nuanced information on people’s risk of serious illness due to Covid-19 and is designed for use by clinicians with patients to reach a shared understanding of risk,” the authors said in a statement.
To develop the new application, called QCOVID, researchers from across Britain compiled data from six million patients, including age, height-weight ratio, ethnicity, and pre-existing conditions - such as high-blood pressure and diabetes - known to increase the risk of serious outcomes after infection.
They then tested the approach on 2.2 million patients - most of whom did not have Covid-19 - to see how well it predicted hospitalisation and deaths during two periods, late January to the end of April, and May 1 to June 30.
More than three-quarters of those who died from the virus were in the top five percent of those predicted to be at maximum risk.
While the tool effectively profiled those facing the worst odds, it did not identify which factors caused fatal outcomes, the researchers cautioned.
Spain nears 1m cases
Spain is nearing a total of a million coronavirus infections over the course of the pandemic so far, with 988,322 currently registered on the Johns Hopkins coronavirus database, which would make it the first European country and sixth country overall to to do so.
More than 34,000 people have died.
The Spanish Health Ministry reported Tuesday that authorities have recorded nearly 14,000 new cases, taking the total to 988,322.
At the current rate of infection, Spain is likely to exceed 1 million on Wednesday.
Health experts say the true number of infections is probably much higher. That’s because insufficient testing, asymptomatic cases and other issues mean official counts fail to capture the real scale of the outbreak.
CDC finds 300,000 excess deaths in US
Here is a closer look at that report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which shows the has seen 300,000 more deaths than it usually would.
The CDC has been tracking how many deaths have been reported and comparing them with counts seen in other years. Usually, between the beginning of February and the end of September, about 1.9 million deaths are reported. This year, it’s closer to 2.2 million - a 14.5% increase, AP reports. The CDC says around 200,000 of the deaths are already attributed to coronavirus, but that the it’s likely Covid-19 was a factor in many other deaths, too. For example, someone with heart attack symptoms may have hesitated to go to a hospital that was busy with coronavirus patients.The largest segment of the excess deaths, about 95,000, were in elderly people ages 75 to 84. That was 21.5% more than in a normal year. But the biggest relative increase, 26.5%, was in people ages 25 to 44. Deaths in people younger than 25 actually dropped slightly.
Deaths were up for different racial and ethnic groups, but the largest increase - 54% - was among Hispanic Americans.
Hello and welcome to today’s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s Wednesday here in Sydney, my name is Helen Sullivan, and this is the place to be for Covid news from around the world.
The US has seen 299,028 excess deaths since January 26, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a new report. 66% of these deaths have already been attributed to coronavirus, in line with the official total of just over 220,000 deaths.
The CDC warns that, “these results provide information about the degree to which Covid-19 deaths might be underascertained and inform efforts to prevent mortality directly or indirectly associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, such as efforts to minimise disruptions to health care.”
“The largest percentage increases were seen among adults aged 25–44 years and among Hispanic or Latino persons.”
Meanwhile Spain is nearing 1m coronavirus cases, a milestone that would make it the sixth country worldwide to cross the threshold.
Here are the key developments from the last few hours:
- AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine trial in the US is expected to resume as early as this week after the US food and drug administration (FDA) completed its review of a serious illness, sources told Reuters.AstraZeneca’s large, late-stage US trial has been on hold since 6 September, after a participant in the company’s UK trial fell ill with what was suspected to be a rare spinal inflammatory disorder called transverse myelitis.
- The White House and Democrats in the US congress have moved closer to agreement on a new coronavirus relief package. With just two weeks to go until the US presidential election, Trump signalled a willingness to go along with more than $2.2tn in new Covid-19 relief, as Democrats had been pushing for months – despite opposition from the Republican party.
- Chaos and fury as Boris Johnson forces curbs on Greater Manchester. Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester in England, accused the government of playing a “game of poker with people’s lives” after Boris Johnson imposed the toughest Covid restrictions on the region without agreeing a support package for businesses and low-paid workers.
- Lombardy curfew aims to curb Covid hospital admissions rise. Authorities in Lombardy have been given the green light to impose a curfew as the Italian region hardest hit in the coronavirus first wave braces itself for a surge in hospital admissions.
- Belgium postpones non-essential hospital work to deal with Covid-19 surge. The country will need to postpone all non-essential hospital procedures to deal with a surge in Covid-19 infections, the health minister Frank Vandenbroucke said, days after warning of a Covid “tsunami” hitting the country.
- UK to spend £30m on trials infecting young people to hasten Covid vaccine. More than £30m of UK government money is to fund the world’s first Covid-19 “challenge trials”, in which healthy young volunteers are intentionally infected with the virus to hasten the development of a vaccine.
- Italy’s southern Campania region plans to introduce a night-time curfew from this weekend in an effort to tackle a surge in Covid-19 cases. The move follows a similar decision taken on Monday by the northern region of Lombardy following a rise in hospital admissions. The Campania governor Vincenzo De Luca said he planned to introduce an 11pm curfew from this weekend.
- Berlin’s municipal government has made it compulsory to wear masks at markets, in queues and on 10 busy shopping streets, but stopped short of imposing another lockdown to curb a new wave of infections in the German capital. The mayor, Michael Müller, urged the capital’s residents to comply with the new rules, which also included limits on parties, to avoid shutting down public life again.