- Brazil cautiously optimistic on early signs that coronavirus spread is slowing.
- Mexican health official says country seeing reduction in pandemic.
- France’s COVID-19 infections again hit new post-lockdown peak.
- Quebec’s health commissioner will investigate health system’s failings during first COVID-19 wave.
- Florida teachers seek injunction against school reopening as state’s coronavirus deaths surpass 10,000.
- Spain registers new single-day record in coronavirus infections since emerging from lockdown.
- Manitoba unveils colour-coded COVID-19 system to allow restrictions by community, region and business.
France registered 3,776 new COVID-19 infections on Wednesday, marking another post-lockdown peak and bringing the total to 225,043, but President Emmanuel Macron again ruled out imposing another national lockdown.
“All the indicators keep going up, and the transmission of the virus is getting stronger among all ages groups affected, young adults in particular,” the Health Ministry said in a statement.
It said the virus was especially active in and around Paris and Marseille, France’s two biggest cities.
Some medical experts are worried about the impact of Paris Saint-Germain fans’ wild, mask-less celebrations on the Champs-Élysées in central Paris after their soccer club reached the Champions League final on Tuesday.
Paris municipal officials are also concerned about large gatherings of fans expected on Sunday, when Paris Saint-Germain will play the final either against Olympique Lyonnais, another French club, or Germany’s Bayern Munich.
Despite the surge in infections, Macron told Paris Match magazine in an interview that “local strategies” were preferable to another national lockdown, which he said would cause considerable “collateral damage.”
France’s Labour Ministry announced on Tuesday that it is making wearing a mask compulsory in the vast majority of workplaces from Sept. 1 to try to stop a resurgence of the pandemic. It also said that working from home would remain its recommended option for employees.
Mask-wearing is compulsory nationwide on all public transit and in most indoor public spaces, such as shops and museums, as well as in crowded outdoor areas in some cities.
The seven-day moving average of the case tally, which smooths out daily reporting irregularities, is now at 2,621, above the 2,500 threshold for the first time since April 19, when France was enforcing one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns.
The number of people in hospital fell again by 17 to 4,806, and those in intensive care slipped by six to 374, reflecting the preponderance of younger people among the new cases who are more likely to be asymptomatic or not fall seriously ill.
Both numbers had been on an uninterrupted downward trend since early April, but that trend has slowed in the past two weeks.
The number of deaths increased by 17 to 30,468, following an increase of 22 on Tuesday and of 19 on Monday.
What’s happening with coronavirus in Canada
As of 9:15 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada had 123,490 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 109,822 cases as resolved, with 4,583 cases still active. A CBC News tally based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting indicates 9,085 Canadians have died from COVID-19.
The Quebec government has asked the province’s health and welfare commissioner to investigate the devastating toll the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic took on the province’s elderly.
Health Minister Christian Dubé, who announced the mandate Wednesday, specified that it does not amount to a public inquiry but that the government would approve one if the commissioner, Joanne Castonguay, deems it necessary.
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Thousands of people in Quebec’s long-term care homes died as a result of COVID-19 during the first few months of the pandemic as the disease spread rapidly through residences, many of which were understaffed and ill-prepared.
Focusing on the elderly population, Castonguay is being asked to examine the health system’s response to the first wave of COVID-19 from four perspectives: performance, capacity, delivery of care and governance.
In Ontario, Canada’s largest school board says it intends to provide remote learning this fall through a centralized “virtual school” rather than from students’ individual neighbourhood schools, prompting concerns students will lose their connection with their local schools and that learning will be that much more isolating.
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The proposal was presented and discussed at a general meeting of the Toronto District School Board on Tuesday. The board is scheduled to meet again Thursday to finalize its plan, and it will have to be approved by the Ontario Ministry of Education.
Meanwhile, Manitoba unveiled a new colour-coded system Wednesday that will allow the government to roll out COVID-19 restrictions targeting specific regions, communities or industries in the province.
The new system has four risk levels, with each triggering possible measures that public health officials can take to limit spread of the virus.
Here’s what’s happening around the world
According to Johns Hopkins University, the global total of confirmed coronavirus cases is now more than 22.2 million. More than 784,000 people have died, while 14.2 million have recovered.
Brazil’s Health Ministry said Wednesday that the spread of coronavirus in the country could be about to slow, amid reports the transmission rate has fallen below the key level and early signs of a gradual decline in the weekly totals of cases and fatalities.
The cautious optimism comes despite figures again showing a steady rise in the number of confirmed cases and death toll in the last 24 hours, cementing Brazil’s status as the world’s second biggest COVID-19 hot spot after the United States.
According to ministry data, Brazil has seen a drop in the number of new confirmed COVID-19 cases to 304,684 last week from a peak of 319,653 in the week ending July 25. The weekly death toll has fallen to 6,755 from a peak of 7,677 in the last week of July.
A study by Imperial College London, meanwhile, showed that for the first time since April, Brazil this week registered a transmission rate below 1, according to Brazilian media reports. A so-called “R rate” below 1 indicates that each infected person will infect less than one person, thus reducing the epidemic.
Meanwhile, Mexico’s point man on the coronavirus epidemic says three weeks of continuing decline in the number of new coronavirus cases means the country is seeing a reduction in the pandemic.
Assistant Health Secretary Hugo Lopez said Wednesday that “we now see a sustained tendency.”
Still, he warned that “the risk is not over” as his office reported still-high levels of confirmed infections and deaths. Confirmed cases rose by 5,792 to 537,031, and 707 more deaths were confirmed, bringing Mexico’s total to 58,481.
In the United States, New York City teachers on Wednesday threatened to strike or bring legal action unless the country’s largest school district implements a more rigorous COVID-19 testing plan and other safety measures before reopening schools next month.
The warning by the United Federation of Teachers, which represents the city’s 133,000 public school teachers, could delay Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to provide a mix of in-classroom and online learning from Sept. 10.
Meanwhile, Florida’s largest teachers’ union is seeking an injunction from a judge in Tallahassee to stop schools from reopening by this Friday. The action comes as coronavirus deaths in the state surpassed 10,000 on Wednesday.
Some U.S. schools and universities got off to a faltering start in reopening campuses this week, following spikes of positive COVID-19 tests administered to returning students and staff. The University of Notre Dame in Indiana and Michigan State University both rolled back their plans for in-person classes on Tuesday.
Spain‘s Health Ministry says 3,715 coronavirus infections have been diagnosed in the past 24 hours, a new single-day record since the country emerged from a three-month lockdown in mid-June.
With 136 cases per 100,000 inhabitants for the past two weeks, Spain tops the European chart of the highest cumulative incidence. It’s one of the main indicators closely monitored by epidemiologists.
The Madrid region, home to 6.6 million people, has emerged as one of the hot spots in the new wave of outbreaks, which officials have linked mostly to family reunions and nightlife.
New regulations, including on hours of nightlife and close outdoor smoking, take effect Thursday in the Spanish capital.
Greece is imposing extra restrictions in the top holiday destinations of Mykonos island and the northern resort region of Halkidiki after an increase in the number of coronavirus cases traced back to those areas.
The Civil Protection authority says starting Friday through Aug. 31, all events such as live parties, religious processions and open-air markets are banned, while gatherings are limited to a maximum of nine people, both in public and in private settings.
A maximum of four people are allowed per table at restaurants or six people per table in cases of immediate family members. Masks are mandatory in all indoor and outdoor areas on Mykonos and throughout Halkidiki province.
Iran surpassed 20,000 confirmed deaths from the coronavirus on Wednesday, the Health Ministry said — the highest death toll for any Middle East country so far in the pandemic.
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The announcement came as the Islamic Republic, which has been struggling with both the region’s largest outbreak and the highest number of fatalities, went ahead with university entrance exams for more than one million students. Iran is also preparing for mass Shia commemorations later this month.
On Wednesday, Iran reported more than 350,200 confirmed cases, with 20,125 deaths, Health Ministry spokesperson Sima Sadat Lari said. However, some experts believe the death toll is likely much higher than officially reported figures due to undercounting and because not everyone with breathing problems has been tested for the virus.
South Korea has found more than 600 coronavirus infections linked to a Seoul church led by a vocal opponent of the country’s president as officials began restricting gatherings in the greater capital area amid fears that transmissions are getting out of control.
Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip said Wednesday that health authorities are also seeking location data provided by cellphone carriers while trying to track thousands who participated in an anti-government protest on Saturday, which worsened the virus’s spread. The march was attended by members of the Sarang Jeil Church and its ultra-right pastor, Jun Kwang-hun, who has been hospitalized since Monday after testing positive.
The country on Wednesday reported 297 new cases of the virus, its biggest daily rise since March 8.