Coronavirus live news: France to unveil new measures after cases jump; India sees over 95,000 new infections


The US presidential candidate, Joe Biden, said on Thursday that Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic was “almost criminal” as the fallout continued over book revelations that the president admitted in early February that the disease was “deadly stuff” but deliberately played it down, writes Joanna Walters for the Guardian US.

As the death toll from Covid-19 nears 200,000 in the US, the world’s highest, Biden, the Democratic candidate, excoriated his opponent in November’s election, in an interview with CNN, over the way he did not address the dangers of the pandemic early and fully.

“He waved the white flag. He walked away, he didn’t do a damn thing, think about it, and it’s almost criminal,” Biden told CNN’s Jake Tapper in an interview scheduled to be aired in full on Thursday afternoon.

Journalist Bob Woodward’s new book, Rage, highlights of which were revealed in his newspaper the Washington Post on Wednesday, features many one-on-one interviews with Trump from late 2019 and into the early summer of 2020, covering the start and the peak of the pandemic in the US.



The Tour de France has confirmed that the four teams that lost staff to positive coronavirus tests this week will not automatically be sent home if further members test positive, according to the Associated Press.

Health rules for the multi-stage bicycle race say teams can be sent home if they have two or more positive tests in a seven-day span. But the organiser, ASO, confirmed on Thursday that the day-counter will be reset to zero when teams are tested again on the Tour’s second and last rest day next Monday.

The clarification is a reprieve for the Cofidis, AG2R La Mondiale, Ineos Grenadiers, and Mitchelton Scott teams, which each saw a staff member test positive on the first rest day. But any team that registers two or more positives could still be sent home. The battery of tests will be the last before the Tour finishes on 20 September in Paris.

No rider was positive in the first round of rest-day tests.

The Tour’s director, Christian Prudhomme, did test positive and was forced to quit the race for what he hopes will be just one week of self-isolation.


Almost one in five jobs are due to go at Singapore Airlines as a result of the impact on business from the coronavirus pandemic, as the company’s chief executive warned that the recovery would be “long and fraught with uncertainty.”

The city-state’s flag carrier said about 1,900 positions had already been eliminated in recent months due to a recruitment freeze, natural attrition and voluntary departures, reducing further expected job cuts to about 2,400, according to Reuters.

Positions are being cut across full-service Singapore Airlines, the regional carrier SilkAir and budget airline Scoot in Singapore and overseas. Goh Choon Phong, the group’s chief executive, said:


The future remains extremely challenging. Given the expectation that the road to recovery will be long and fraught with uncertainty, it has come to the point where we have to make the painfully difficult decision to implement involuntary staff reduction measures”

Singapore Airlines was more vulnerable than other major carriers around the world, as it did not have a domestic market and was wholly dependent on international routes, he said.

The carrier, which reported a net loss of more than US$800m in the first quarter, is operating at 8% of pre-pandemic capacity.

The cuts come despite the airline group raising a total Sg$11bn in new funds to help it weather the crisis – including Sg$8.8bn from a rights issue backed by its majority shareholder, the state investment fund Temasek.


884,000 applied for jobless benefits in the US last week

The number of people in the US applying for unemployment benefits was unchanged last week at 884,000, the Associated Press reports.

The latest update from the Labor Department still far exceeds the number who sought benefits in any week on record before this year, a sign that layoffs are stuck at a historically high level six months after the viral pandemic flattened the economy.

As portions of the economy have reopened, some companies have recalled workers temporarily laid off, so far adding back about half the 22m jobs lost to the initial crisis.

But hiring has slowed since June, and a rising number of laid-off workers say they regard their job loss as permanent. The government also said on Thursday that 13.4 million people were continuing to receive traditional jobless benefits, up from 13.3 million the previous week.


Julian Assange’s extradition case has been paused until Monday so that a member of one of the legal teams can be tested for Covid-19 after potential exposure, writes Ben Quinn in London.

Judge Vanessa Baraitser granted an adjournment at the request of lawyers for the WikiLeaks co-founder and the US government.

“We should not really be here today. Covid would be in the courtroom,” said Edward Fitzgerald QC, who is representing Assange in his struggle to resist extradition to the US, where he could face a prison sentence of up to 175 years if convicted on all charges.

His request for an adjournment was backed by James Lewis QC, acting for the US government, who addressed the Old Bailey via video link.

Baraitser said she had been told on Wednesday night that a member of one of the legal teams may have been exposed to Covid-19. She said she had intended to take matters one step at a time, but after hearing from both sides she had decided to accept that the hearing should be postponed.


Belgium has been cited by the UK health secretary, Matt Hancock, as a model for getting coronavirus under control – just as its public health body recorded a 15% rise in the number of daily infections compared with the previous week, writes Daniel Boffey, the Guardian’s Brussels bureau chief.

Despite a dip in the number of new infections in August, after a tightening of rules by the Belgian prime minister, Sophie Wilmès, the most recent data suggests the country’s success may be short-lived as people return to work and school.

An average of 509.7 people a day have newly tested positive during the past seven days, according to the latest figures by from Belgium’s scientific institute for public health.

Thursday marked the fifth successive day that the number of people newly infected rose.

Hospital admissions are also up. Between 3 and 9 September, an average of 20.6 new admissions per day was recorded, an increase from 16.7 the week before.

Hancock had praised Belgium as he sought to justify strict new laws on social gatherings in England, including the so-called rule of six people, limiting the size of social groups.

The health secretary said the UK was learning from the experience of other European countries that had recorded an increase in coronavirus infections in recent months.


The corporate partner due to manufacture the Oxford University coronavirus vaccine in India has had to be ordered to cease phase three trials that were due to take place next week, after a trial subject in the UK became ill.

The Serum Institute of India was issued the order by the drugs controller general of India on Wednesday, after trials of the vaccine in the UK, Brazil and South Africa were halted due to the “potentially unexplained illness” in a trial participant.

According to Indian broadcaster NDTV, the DCGI had questioned why trials were continuing in India while they had been paused elsewhere, and why it had not received a report detailing the symptoms of the patient in the UK.

The Serum Institute had been in the process of listing volunteers for the trials, which were expected to begin next week and involve 1,600 volunteers across 17 sites in India.

The Serum Institute was quoted by NDTV as saying: “We are reviewing the situation and pausing India trials till AstraZeneca restarts the trials.”

AstraZeneca is leading on production of the vaccine. On Thursday, the company’s chief executive, Pascal Soriot, insisted the vaccine could still be available by the end of the year, or early next year.


Russia reported 5,363 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, bringing the national tally to 1,046,370, the fourth largest in the world, according to Reuters.

Authorities said 128 people had died in the last 24 hours, pushing the official death toll to 18,263.


The Philippines has confirmed 3,821 more new coronavirus infections, the most in 11 days, and 80 additional deaths.

In a bulletin, the health ministry said total confirmed cases have increased to 248,947, the most in Southeast Asia, while Covid-19 deaths have reached 4,066. So far 186,058 people infected with the virus have recovered, the health ministry said.


Cats may be catching coronavirus at a higher rate than previously thought, a new study suggests.

Researchers from from Huazhong Agricultural University found that 15 out of a sample of 102 cats from Wuhan tested positive for antibodies against the virus. Eleven also had neutralising antibodies, which prevent infections entirely by binding tightly to the virus.

The sample included 46 abandoned cats from three animal shelters, 41 from five pet hospitals, and 15 cats from Covid-19 patient families. None of the cats actually tested positive for coronavirus or displayed obvious symptoms and, according to the results of return visits, none have died.

Commenting on the findings, the study’s lead author, Meilin Jin, said that while there was currently no evidence for cat-to-human transmission, precautions should be considered.

You can read a press release about the study here, while the full article is available here.


French government to announce new Covid measures


France’s government will announce new Covid-19 measures tomorrow, we have learned, after Emmanuel Macron hosts a defence council meeting, writes Kim Willsher, the Guardian’s Paris correspondent.

Ministers are saying nothing is excluded, but we know the president and prime minister are opposed to a national lockdown, which they say would be catastrophic for the economy.


The countries of central Europe, having come out of the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic in much better shape than most of their western European counterparts, are now facing higher numbers than during the spring peak of Covid-19, as restrictions return to the region, write Robert Tait in Prague and Shaun Walker, the Guardian’s central and eastern Europe correspondent.

On Tuesday, the Czech Republic passed the milestone of more than 1,000 Covid-19 cases in a day for the first time, while Hungary has closed its borders for September to counter rapidly rising daily infection rates. Cases rose in Poland in August too, though numbers have since dropped.

The rise in the Czech Republic is a sharp setback for a country previously hailed as among Europe’s most successful in tackling the pandemic, prompting the authorities to intensify face-mask requirements.

A record 1,164 new infections were documented in the nation of 10.7 million on Tuesday, and over the past 14 days, the country has seen one of the highest infection rates in Europe when adjusted for population, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Czech officials have attributed the rise to a sharp increase in testing. They also insist most of the new cases are mild and among otherwise healthy young people. Some 168 cases were traced to a party at a Prague nightclub in July.

The prime minister, Andrej Babiš, told the World Health Organization to “keep quiet” after it voiced concern over reports that Czech officials planned to reduce contact tracing and testing because many of the new cases were asymptomatic.



Romania is reaching the milestone of 100,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to the latest update from the country’s public health agency.

On Thursday, 1,380 new infections were reported, bringing the total so far in the country to 99,684, of whom 4,065 have died – an increase of 47 on Wednesday.

Of those most recently reported deaths, 45 were of patients who presented with comorbidities, and 2 deceased patients did not present with comorbidities, the update said.

The total number of people being treated in hospital with Covid-19 is 7,133

Since the beginning of Romania’s outbreak, 41,010 patients have been declared cured, while 12,568 asymptomatic patients were discharged 10 days after detection.



Hi, this is Damien Gayle taking the reins of the liveblog from my esteemed colleague Alexandra Topping, who thinks she misses the very loud way I hammer away on the keyboard (but who actually one time made me get a quieter keyboard because it annoyed her so much).


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