Briefing Coronavirus

Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today – The New York Times

U.S.|Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

How close is herd immunity? Despite optimistic claims, up to 90 percent of the U.S. population is still vulnerable.

Jonathan Wolfe


Credit…The New York Times

Experts think that to reach herd immunity — the point at which the coronavirus can no longer spread widely — about 70 percent of a population must be immune, either through vaccination or surviving the infection. Some people, including President Trump, claim we’re nearly there.

Our colleague Donald G. McNeil Jr., who covers science, recently set out to determine how close the United States was to reaching that elusive milestone.

He asked three epidemic-modeling teams — the Prevention Policy Modeling Lab at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, and the Covid-19 Projections website — to calculate what percentage of the country has been infected based on testing and death data from all 50 states.

Their responses were strikingly similar: They found that only 10 percent to 16 percent of Americans have had the virus, leaving up to 90 percent of the population vulnerable.

The numbers are in line with two other studies published last week. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, citing data from blood samples collected at labs across the country, said that less than 10 percent contained antibodies. And in a study published in The Lancet, Stanford University scientists examined almost 29,000 blood samples from dialysis centers and found antibodies in just over 9 percent of patients.

The theory that the U.S. may have already achieved herd immunity — and therefore we should get back to our regular lives — is circulating among conservative news programs and the Trump administration, and is gaining credence on Wall Street.

But these studies suggest herd immunity is still very far off.

“If we all took off our masks and went back into hanging out in bars and piling into the offices and subways, hundreds of thousands more of us would die,” Donald said.

Revisiting Sweden. Sweden became a lightning rod last spring when it refused to impose coronavirus lockdown measures. Now, as the country’s caseload remains surprisingly low, the question is whether it has found a sustainable balance, or whether the recent numbers are just a temporary anomaly.

After months of persistently driving down its virus numbers, New York City is witnessing a jump in virus cases — a troubling sign as the city takes some major steps toward resuming public life.

The city’s daily positivity rate, or the share of tests that come back positive, reached 3.25 percent on Tuesday, the highest it has been since June.

Officials are particularly concerned about eight neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens, including some predominantly Orthodox Jewish communities, which have accounted for about one-fourth of New York City’s new cases in the past two weeks, despite accounting for only about 7 percent of the city’s population.

The outbreak has emerged at a fraught, pivotal moment: Elementary schools reopened today, with about 300,000 children returning to classrooms for the first time since March, and indoor dining is set to resume tomorrow.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he would shut down the entire public school system if the city’s test positivity rate exceeded 3 percent over a seven-day rolling average. Based on the current trend, the city could reach that threshold quickly — and if schools are forced to close, it could take weeks for them to reopen, according to the city’s health officials.

  • Ontario, the most populous province in Canada, reported 700 new infections on Monday, its highest one-day total.

  • Kenya extended its nationwide curfew for two months. In an address to the nation, President Uhuru Kenyatta said bars and nightclubs could reopen but schools will remain closed.

  • The Netherlands tightened its coronavirus restrictions as cases quickly rose, warning that its most severe wave yet was likely to get worse.

Here’s a roundup of restrictions in all 50 states.

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Coronavirus Global

Global Coronavirus Deaths Surpass One Million – The Wall Street Journal

The death toll from the coronavirus pandemic reached one million world-wide on Monday, as several nations continue to struggle to contain a virus that has overloaded health-care systems, upended economies and remade daily life around the globe.

Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, is killing on average more than 700 people a day in the U.S., which leads the world in both confirmed cases and deaths. With more than seven million confirmed infections since the beginning of the pandemic, the U.S. accounts for nearly a fifth…

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Coronavirus State

New York state logs over 1,000 new coronavirus cases for 1st time since June – NBC News

New York state recorded more than 1,000 new coronavirus cases in a single day, the first time since June that the state had a daily number that high.

The news comes as more than half of all states in the U.S. have shown percentage increases in the number of coronavirus cases over the last two weeks.

Out of nearly 100,000 coronavirus tests in New York, 1,005 came back as positive, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a tweet Saturday. That’s 1 percent of the total tests.

The last time the state recorded daily numbers that high was on June 5, according to NBC New York. On that day, New York had 1,108 new cases, the state’s health department website shows.

From late July through the start of September the state was seeing an average of around 660 people test positive per day. In the seven-day period that ended Friday, the state had averaged 817 positive tests per day.

Cuomo aide Gareth Rhodes emphasized Saturday that the new positive-case number came out of nearly 100,000 tests, compared to about 60,000 tests daily in June.

“Is there cause for concern? As long as COVID is here, yes,” Rhodes posted on Twitter, noting that certain ZIP codes have seen increases in new cases and hospital admissions. “Key is ensuring these clusters don’t spread into neighboring/other ZIPs.”

Is there cause for concern? As long as COVID is here, yes. Select ZIPs in the lower Hudson Valley & Brooklyn have seen increase in new cases & positivity, & are where new hospital admissions are coming from. Key is ensuring these clusters don’t spread into neighboring/other ZIPs

— Gareth Rhodes (@GarethRhodes) September 26, 2020

Rhodes also noted improving numbers among college-aged people, suggesting better compliance on campuses.

In New York City, health officials have sounded alarms about a rising number of cases in certain neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens where many private religious schools opened for in-person instruction in early September.

Still, New York is in a far better situation than in April, when the number of positive tests per day routinely topped 9,000, even though tests then were hard to get and people were being encouraged not to seek one unless they were gravely ill.

Public school students in New York City’s elementary, middle and high schools are set to resume in-person instruction next week Sept. 29 and Oct. 1.

Image: Minyvonne BurkeMinyvonne Burke

Minyvonne Burke is a breaking news reporter for NBC News.

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Coronavirus survey

Coronavirus survey in Minnesota cancelled after workers faced harassment, racism – NBC News

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pulled federal coronavirus surveyors out of Minnesota this week after they experienced verbal abuse, intimidation and racism, according to the state’s Department of Health.

The CDC had been working with the Minnesota Department of Health since Sept. 14 to conduct a voluntary door-to-door survey across 180 neighborhoods to better understand how the virus was spreading, particularly among people with no known symptoms.

The Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response (CASPER) survey teams were also offering free testing for the virus and for antibodies.

But some Minnesota residents greeted the public health workers with racial and ethnic slurs, Dan Huff, an assistant health commissioner in the state, told NBC News in a statement.

Huff recalled a specific incident on Sept. 15 in Eitzen, a town of 250 people along the Iowa border, when one survey team “was surrounded by three men who refused to accept their identification as public health workers. One of the men was armed, and the workers felt that the intention of the men was to intimidate them. Racial epithets were used by the men.”

“There was never a gun or any weapon present and no threats or aggressive behavior occurred during the interaction between the city members and the Covid-19 team,” Eitzen Mayor Jeffrey Adamson told KARE, NBC’s affiliate in Minneapolis, adding that the one of the three men involved in the encounter with the public health workers was a city official.

“This situation was handled professionally, courteously, and unbiased with no racial slurs, threats or inappropriate comments made,” said Adamson. “The City of Eitzen in no way supports racism or violence.”

Houston County Sheriff Mark Inglett told KARE he is not investigating the incident as no complaints were filed.

But Minnesota health officials said the incident in Eitzen was not an isolated one.

According to Huff, there were several other instances in which residents yelled at the public health workers and threatened to call the police. Other incidents included team members’ being followed and videotaped. Most incidents occurred in central and southern Minnesota — in rural areas where there has been more resentment over coronavirus restrictions, The Associated Press reported.

“Many of the individual incidents could perhaps have been considered misunderstandings, but over the past week, a pattern emerged where the CASPER teams that included people of color were reporting more incidents than teams that did not include people of color,” said Huff.

Stephanie Yendell, who supervised Minnesota’s role in the survey, said one of their Latina team members had “been called a particular epithet more times in the last week than in her entire life,” the AP reported.

Following the “series of troubling incidents across Minnesota” and “the impact the incidents had on team members”, the CDC decided to demobilize their field staff and halt the CASPER survey, said Huff.

The CDC did not respond to NBC News’ email requesting comment.

Before the CDC pulled out its workers, the agency had collected test samples from about 400 residents statewide. The tests will be processed and analyzed, but they won’t be enough to provide a complete picture of coronavirus transmission in Minnesota, the AP reported.

“We hope this episode gives us all a chance to take a pause and consider how we treat each other during this stressful time. The enemy is the virus, not each other,” said Huff, adding, “Minnesota Department of Health stands against racism in its many forms.”

Minnesota has reported about 2,000 coronavirus deaths and at least 95,659 confirmed cases since March.

Image: Nicole AcevedoNicole Acevedo

Nicole Acevedo is a reporter for NBC News Digital. She reports, writes and produces stories for NBC Latino and

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Coronavirus Johnson

Coronavirus vaccine: Johnson & Johnson jab shows response in 98% of test participants – The Independent

One of the numerous proposed coronavirus vaccines has produced a strong immune response in test subjects according to a report issued Friday.  

Johnson & Johnson’s JNJ.N Covid-19 vaccine, called Ad26.COV2.S, was well-tolerated by subjects at two dosing instances in early-to-mid stage coronavirus clinical trials.  

It is the only Phase 3 Covid-19 vaccine trial in the US that is testing a single dose vaccine.  

Researchers said 98 per cent of participants in the study whose data was available had neutralising antibodies, which help the body fight off pathogens, a month after they received the vaccine.  

The vaccine is unique in that it is delivered in a single shot, rather than in two doses. The reduced time needed to deliver the vaccine could simply its distribution.  

The report written based on the trial, which was released on the medical website medRxiv, has not been peer reviewed, according to Reuters.  

Nearly 1,000 healthy adults participated in the clinical trial, which began after Johnson & Johnson saw that the vaccine provided strong immune protection when tested on monkeys.  

The company began the latest phase of the trials on Wednesday when it began a 60,000-person trial. If results are successful, the trial would be another step on the path to a viable coronavirus vaccine.  

Johnson & Johnson said the trial should finish by the end of the year or the beginning of 2021.  

While the results thus far have been promising, an area of concern voiced by researchers is whether or not the vaccine will be effective in the elderly.  

There were only 15 participants included in the report who were over 65 years old.  

Participants over 65 years old reported adverse reactions to the drug – like fatigue and muscle aches – at a rate of only 36 per cent. Younger participants reported those effects at a rate of 64 per cent. Since the older patients weren’t experiencing side effects as often, researchers worry they may not have the same immune response as younger individuals.  

The report found that most of the side effects caused by the vaccine cleared up in a few days. 

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Coronavirus updates

Coronavirus Updates: Study Finds Fewer Than 10% Of Americans Have Antibodies – Gothamist

Outdoor Dining Space Bubbles--people encased in clear plastic hubs--at Cafe du Soleil in the Upper West Side of Manhattan.


Outdoor Dining Space Bubbles at Cafe du Soleil in the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

Andrew H Walker/Shutterstock

This is our daily update of breaking COVID-19 news for Saturday, September 26th, 2020. Previous daily updates can be found here, and up-to-date statistics are here.

New York City is in Phase 4 of reopening now, which includes zoos, botanical gardens, museums, and gyms. A look at preparing for the spread of coronavirus is here, and if you have lingering questions about the virus, here is our regularly updated coronavirus FAQ. Here are some local and state hotlines for more information: NYC: 311; NY State Hotline: 888-364-3065; NJ State Hotline: 800-222-1222.

Here’s the latest:

Fewer than 10% of Americans have antibodies from COVID-19, according to a study conducted across 46 states by Stanford University scientists.

The study, published in The Lancet, surveyed plasma from 28,503 people receiving dialysis in July through partnerships with 1300 dialysis centers across the country. They found, “Residents of non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic neighborhoods experienced higher odds of seropositivity… compared with residents of predominantly non-Hispanic white neighborhoods. Residents of neighborhoods in the highest population density quintile experienced increased odds of seropositivity…compared with residents of the lowest density quintile.”

This corresponds with data showing that Black and Hispanic communities were more badly hit by the coronavirus, as well as those living in more crowded conditions.

The NY Times reports that this study’s “results roughly matched those of an analysis to be released next week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which found that about 10 percent of blood samples from sites across the country contained antibodies to the virus.” Further, the Times points out:

An accurate estimate of the country’s immunity is important because President Trump, in collaboration with his new medical adviser, Dr. Scott Atlas, has tentatively promoted the idea of reaching herd immunity by canceling lockdowns, mask-wearing campaigns and social-distancing mandates. The plan would be to let the virus wash through the population while attempting to protect the people deemed most vulnerable.

Most public health experts say that such a policy would lead to hundreds of thousands more deaths, as it is impossible to protect all Americans who are elderly or have one of a dozen underlying conditions, including diabetes and heart disease, that render a person more likely to become seriously ill or to die.

In New York, which saw the most cases and deaths in the early weeks of the pandemic, the study found prevalence of antibodies was 33% among the dialysis patients. An upcoming Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study finds that about 10% of Americans, and 22.5% of NY State residents, have antibodies, according to the NY Times.

During a press conference on Friday, Dr. Mitchell Katz, president of NYC’s public hospital system, said there is no herd immunity in NYC, further explaining, “Herd immunity occurs when more than 80% of people are immune and that protects everyone,” while emphasizing the importance of mask-wearing, social distancing, and adhering to COVID-19 guidance from public health authorities.

As Flu Season Draws Closer, COVID-19 Positivity Cases Remain At 1%

1 p.m. As parts of New York City grapple with an uptick in COVID-19 cases, New York State overall is seeing 1% of New Yorkers testing positive for the virus, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Saturday.

“It’s vital that New Yorkers continue to practice the basic behaviors that drive our ability to fight COVID-19 as we move into the fall and flu season. Wearing masks, socially distancing and washing hands make a critical difference, as does the deliberate enforcement of state guidance by local governments,” Cuomo said in a statement. “We’ll continue to closely monitor the data and keep New Yorkers updated so they can make educated decisions for themselves and their families. We can move through COVID-19 if we stay New York Tough and if we do so together.”

More than 1,000 of 99,953 people tested positive for the virus across the state, the first time the state surpassed 1,000 positive cases since June 5th. This brings the total number of COVID-19 cases to 454,760. A total of 51 counties also saw new cases. Four people, including two in Brooklyn, have died from the virus on Friday, according to the state Department of Health.

With colder weather arriving and flu season just around the corner, health experts are wary of a second wave that could set back the city’s progress.

As a way of enforcing social distancing rules, officers with the State Liquor Authority and State Police Task Force stopped by 1,480 establishments in New York City and Long Island and determined only three businesses violated the rules.

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Coronavirus TODAY

How To Tell If You Have A Cold, The Flu Or Coronavirus | TODAY – TODAY

How To Tell If You Have A Cold, The Flu Or Coronavirus | TODAY – YouTube

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Coronavirus updates

Coronavirus live updates: Here’s what to know in North Carolina on Sept. 26 – Raleigh News & Observer

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Coronavirus Mutation

Coronavirus mutation emerges that may outmaneuver mask-wearing and hand-washing | TheHill – The Hill

A new preliminary study involving more than 5,000 genetic sequences of the coronavirus suggests one of the virus’s many mutations may be more contagious than the others, according to a report from The Washington Post

The study, which has not been peer-reviewed, conducted by researchers from Houston Methodist Hospital, found the strain known as the D614G mutation was responsible for close to every coronavirus infection in Houston this summer, during Texas’s second wave of infections. 

Our country is in a historic fight against the Coronavirus. Add Changing America to your Facebook or Twitter feed to stay on top of the news.

The mutation did not make the virus deadlier or change clinical outcomes, according to researchers. 

All viruses mutate and most of the random changes to the genetic sequence are considered to be insignificant, however, researchers found people infected with this particular strain had higher viral loads in their upper respiratory tracts, allowing the virus to potentially spread more effectively. 

David Morens, a virologist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) who reviewed the study, told the Post the findings suggest the virus may have become more contagious and could possibly be responding to health measures such as social distancing and mask-wearing. 






“Wearing masks, washing our hands, all those things are barriers to transmissibility, or contagion, but as the virus becomes more contagious it statistically is better at getting around those barriers,” Morens told the newspaper, cautioning not to over-interpret the findings from a single study that has yet to be peer-reviewed.  

He also said it’s possible the virus could eventually get around immunity when a vaccine is rolled out, similar to the flu. 

“Although we don’t know yet, it is well within the realm of possibility that the coronavirus, when our population-level immunity gets high enough, this coronavirus will find a way to get around our immunity,” he said. “We’ll have to chase the virus and, as it mutates, we’ll have to tinker with our vaccine.” 

The research is the latest in a series of studies suggesting the D614G mutation is more contagious than earlier versions of the original virus. The mutation has been dominant in almost all places in the U.S., Europe and Latin America. 

A report last month claimed the mutation may be more infectious but less deadly than the original virus, as it has been associated with lower death rates. 

But other researchers said the conclusion that the mutation is more contagious than others is premature. 

“The study provides more evidence for what we already know about this mutation: That it’s the most common variant,” Emma Hodcroft, a geneticist at the Nexstrain project, told Business Insider. “That doesn’t mean the virus is effectively mutating.”

Hodcraft said her team of researchers that has been tracing the coronavirus’s genetic changes have yet to identify a mutation that would change how infectious or deadly the virus is, according to Business Insider.






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Coronavirus France

Coronavirus live news: France sees record new cases; virus may be becoming more contagious – The Guardian

India records 86,052 new cases

India’s coronavirus case tally surged to 5.82 million after it recorded 86,052 new infections in the last 24 hours, data from the health ministry showed on Friday.

India has regularly been confirming daily case numbers above 80,000 since late August, according to Johns Hopkins University.

A total of 1,141 people died of Covid-19 in the last 24 hours, the ministry said, taking mortalities to 92,290, which is a relatively low 1.6% of all cases.

Globally, India has the second-highest number of coronavirus cases, behind the United States where infections crossed 7 million on Thursday.

Daily wage labourers wearing face masks as a precaution against the coronavirus stand together as they wait for work at a wholesale market in Bengaluru, India, Thursday, 24 September 2src2src.

Daily wage labourers wearing face masks as a precaution against the coronavirus stand together as they wait for work at a wholesale market in Bengaluru, India, Thursday, 24 September 2020. Photograph: Aijaz Rahi/AP

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 2,153 to 280,223, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed on Friday.

The reported death toll rose by 15 to 9,443, the tally showed.

Rio carnival delayed for first time in a century

Rio de Janeiro delayed its annual Carnival parade, saying Thursday night that the global spectacle cannot go ahead in February because of Brazil’s continued vulnerability to the pandemic, AP reports.

Rio’s League of Samba Schools, LIESA, announced that the spread of the coronavirus has made it impossible to safely hold the traditional parades that are a cultural mainstay and, for many, a source of livelihood.

Carnival parade floats sit unfinished in the Unidos de Padre Miguel samba school workshop, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Monday, 21 September 2src2src.

Carnival parade floats sit unfinished in the Unidos de Padre Miguel samba school workshop, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Monday, 21 September 2020. Photograph: Silvia Izquierdo/AP

Rio’s City Hall has yet to announce a decision about the Carnival street parties that also take place across the city. But its tourism promotion agency said in a statement to The Associated Press on 17 September that without a coronavirus vaccine, it is uncertain when large public events can resume.

Brazil’s first confirmed coronavirus case was 26 February, one day after this years Carnival ended. As the number of infections grew, the samba schools that participate in the glitzy annual parade halted preparations for the 2021 event. Thursdays announcement removed the cloud of uncertainty that has hung over the city one of worst hit by the pandemic in Brazil.


In the US, all Midwest states except Ohio reported more cases in the past four weeks as compared with the prior four weeks, led by South Dakota and North Dakota. South Dakota had the biggest percentage increase at 166% with 8,129 new cases, while North Dakota’s new cases doubled to 8,752 as compared to 4,243 during the same time in August, Reuters reports.

Many cases in those two states have been linked to the annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, that annually attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors.

According to a Reuters analysis, positive cases rose in half of the 50 US states this month. Ten states have reported a record one-day increase in Covid-19 cases in September.

New cases rose last week after falling for eight consecutive weeks. Health experts believe this spike was due to reopening schools and universities as well as parties over the recent Labor Day holiday.

A study by researchers from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Indiana University, the University of Washington and Davidson College said recent reopening of college and university campuses for in-person instruction during late summer this year could be associated with more than 3,000 additional cases of Covid-19 per day in the United States in recent weeks.

The US, with nearly 7m confirmed cases, has the highest number of infections in the world followed by India with 5.7 million cases and Brazil with 4.6 million, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The United states is currently averaging 40,000 new infections per day.

Top US infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci has said he would like to see the number to fall below 10,000 per day before flu season starts in October.

Health officials and President Donald Trump have presented different views about the nation’s health crisis. Trump, who is seeking re-election to a second term on Nov. 3, early this month had claimed that the United States was “rounding the corner” on the crisis. Fauci contradicted the claim the next day, saying the statistics were disturbing.

More on the rally, from Reuters:

Trump campaigned in the battleground states of North Carolina and Florida on Thursday, saying the country’s economic prosperity was riding on the outcome of his 3 November showdown with Democrat Joe Biden.

“If you want to save America, you must get out and vote,” he told thousands of cheering supporters, most not wearing masks during the coronavirus pandemic, at the outdoor airport rally in front of Air Force One in Jacksonville, Florida.

People attend a campaign rally by US President Donald Trump at Cecil Airport in Jacksonville, Florida, US, 24 September 2src2src.

People attend a campaign rally by US President Donald Trump at Cecil Airport in Jacksonville, Florida, US, 24 September 2020. Photograph: Tom Brenner/Reuters

Trump criticised Biden as too far left for Americans and warned that the Democrat’s efforts to battle the coronavirus would endanger the economy.

Trump has been criticised for failing to lay out a national strategy to combat the pandemic, which has killed more than 200,000 people in the United States, the most deaths of any country from the virus.

He has pushed for rapid deployment of a vaccine once one is ready, and for a broad reopening of the economy after a lockdown in the spring that resulted in heavy job losses.

“Biden’s plan will crush Florida,” Trump said. “My plan will crush the virus.”

Here is a picture of the crowd at US President Donald Trump’s rally in Jacksonville, Florida. There are few masks and little, if any, social distancing:

Jill Colvin

The crowd here at Trump’s Jacksonville, Florida rally just goes on and on.

September 24, 2020

Israel toughens restrictions

Israel toughened its coronavirus measures on Thursday as a second nationwide lockdown failed to bring down the world’s highest infection rate a week after it was imposed, AFP reports.

The new rules will close the vast majority of workplaces, shutter markets and further limit prayers and demonstrations.

“Saving lives is our priority – we are living in a moment of national crisis,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a televised news conference late Thursday, justifying the decision to reinforce restrictions.

“The State of Israel will overcome the epidemic and we will emerge stronger,” he added without detailing all the measures taken by his government.

The move comes as Israel is poised to enter the second week of a three-week lockdown imposed last Friday, which included the closure of schools and restrictions on work and leisure.

Under the new measures approved during a first reading by parliament on Thursday, only “essential” work will be permitted from 2.00 pm local time (1100 GMT) on Friday and synagogues will only be allowed to open on Yom Kippur, a Jewish holiday that begins Sunday afternoon.

At other times, only outdoor prayer with a maximum of 20 people in attendance will be allowed. The same restrictions have been applied to demonstrations.

A decision on whether to close Ben Gurion international airport outside Tel Aviv would be made later on Thursday, the government said.

“To save the lives of Israel’s citizens, we need to impose a full lockdown now for two weeks,” Netanyahu said earlier.

“This is also necessary for the economy. Whoever thinks we can work with a raging pandemic, with death and infections rising, without it affecting the economy, is wrong.”

Israel has the world’s highest coronavirus infection rate per capita, according to an AFP tally from the past fortnight – more than 200,000 infections have been recorded, out of a population of nine million.

Meanwhile The Telegraph has a report that suggests face masks are giving people a form of immunity from the virus.

The idea comes from research that suggests that the lower the amount of the virus your are exposed to when you are first infected, the higher your chances of survival: “Indeed, a large study published in the Lancet last month found that ‘viral load at diagnosis’ was an ‘independent predictor of mortality’ in hospital patients,” the Telegraph reports.

Wearing masks could therefore reduce the infectious dose that the wearer is exposed to and, subsequently, the impact of the disease, as masks filter out some virus-containing droplets.

If this theory bears out, researchers argue, then population-wide mask wearing might ensure that a higher proportion of Covid-19 infections are asymptomatic.

Better still, as data has emerged in recent weeks suggesting that there can be strong immune responses from even mild or asymptomatic coronavirus infection, researchers say that any public health strategy that helps reduce the severity of the virus – such as mask wearing – should increase population-wide immunity as well.

This is because even a low viral load can be enough to induce an immune response, which is effectively what a typical vaccine does.

More now on the the mutation of SARS-CoV-2, which US scientists believe may be making the virus more contagious.

The Washington Post reports that a genetic mutation has been detected on one of the spikes on on the virus – these are the spikes that give the virus it’s crown or “corona”, and which are an important part of how it is able to infect people so quickly.

Because the virus is so widespread, especially in the US, which has the highest number of infections worldwide, it has had “a lot of chances,” the author of the study told the Washington Post: “There is a huge population size out there right now.”

It is also important to note that while the virus may be more contagious, it does not appear to be deadlier. In other words, the scientists haven’t found a mutation that suggests the virus has become deadlier.

From the Post:

Like all coronaviruses, SARS-CoV-2 has a series of characteristic spikes surrounding its core. These spikes are what allow the virus to attach to human cells.

A mutation affecting the spike protein changed amino acid 614 from “D” (aspartic acid) to “G” (glycine). Research suggests that this small change — which affects three identical amino acid chains — might enhance the virus’s transmissibility.

Here is our story on the study:

Late on Thursday, the UK’s chancellor defended his decision to replace the government’s furlough scheme with a plan that will subsidise the wages of people in work. Workers will need to work at least a third of their normal hours to qualify for the new Job Support Scheme.

‘I can’t save every job’: Rishi Sunak defends new Covid-19 job protection scheme – video

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference, Rishi Sunak said the change was necessary to manage the long-term economic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic.

‘We can’t continue to provide the same degree of support that we did at the beginning of this crisis,’ he told reporters. ‘It’s not sustainable for a prolonged period of time.’

Caroline Davies

Buckingham Palace is belt-tightening after a projected £35m double-whammy financial blow due to Covid-19, as royal accounts reveal the Sussexes’ flights to southern Africa cost nearly £250,000 and Prince Andrew took a £16,000 charter to a Northern Ireland golf tournament.

The palace also confirmed that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have made a “substantial contribution” for an undisclosed amount to the sovereign grant for Frogmore Cottage, their private Windsor residence refurbished with £2.4m in public money before the couple relocated to Los Angeles.

The one-off payment for a number of years’ rental is set at a commercial rate and takes into account the property’s enhanced value as a result of the refurbishment. A senior palace source indicated the private rental agreement would cover the £2.4m the couple agreed to repay to the sovereign grant. They want to retain the residence, and will be expected to make further rental payments in future years:

Global deaths pass 980,000

The global coronavirus death toll has passed another grim milestone as we near the toll of one million lives lost as a result of the virus in just nine months.

There are currently 980,299 deaths confirmed on the Johns Hopkins University tracker, which relies on official government data. The true toll is believed to be higher due to lags in reporting, differing definitions and testing rates and suspected underreporting in some countries.

These are the ten countries with the highest tolls worldwide:

  1. US: 202,728 deaths
  2. Brazil: 138,977 deaths
  3. India: 91,149 deaths
  4. Mexico: 74,949 deaths
  5. United Kingdom: 41,991 deaths
  6. Italy: 35,781 deaths
  7. Peru: 31,870 deaths
  8. France: 31,524 deaths
  9. Spain: 31,118 deaths
  10. Iran: 25,015 deaths

Brazil recorded 32,817 additional confirmed cases of coronavirus in the past 24 hours, and 831 deaths from the disease, the Health Ministry said on Thursday.

South America’s largest country has registered more than 4.6 million cases of the virus since the pandemic began, according to ministry data, ranking it as the third worst outbreak in the world after the United States and India.

Nearly 140,000 people have died of the disease in Brazil, which ranks second after the United States in coronavirus deaths.

Activists of the NGO Rio de Paz in protective gear dig graves on Copacabana beach to symbolise the dead from coronavirus during a demonstration in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 11 June 2src2src.

Activists of the NGO Rio de Paz in protective gear dig graves on Copacabana beach to symbolise the dead from coronavirus during a demonstration in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 11 June 2020. Photograph: Pilar Olivares/Reuters


The state of Victoria, Australia’s coronavirus hot spot, on Friday reported eight deaths from Covid-19 in the last 24 hours and 14 new infections as the state looks set to ease some tough restrictions during the weekend.

A day earlier the state reported two deaths from the virus and 12 new cases.

The two-week average of new infections in the city of Melbourne dropped below 26, well below the 30-50 level which the state has set as a precondition to ease curbs.

Hilary Osborne

Londoners are increasingly looking for jobs outside the capital as the city’s economy stalls, one of the UK’s largest recruitment sites has found, raising the prospect of a wave of “reverse commuters” or a continued exodus of residents.

Figures from Indeed, based on millions of job adverts and searches, show that on 18 September, the number of posts advertised in London was down by 55% on the same date in 2019.

The sharp decline reflects the impact of closed offices and reduced hospitality services on the city’s jobs market:

Haroon Siddique

Mental health experts have joined forces with nearly 2,000 family members bereaved by Covid-19 to warn of an impending crisis unless support services for grieving relatives are made available.

Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, together with organisations including the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) and the National Bereavement Partnership, want the government to use the comprehensive spending review to fund measures addressing particularly traumatic forms of grief:

EU warns virus epidemic worsening, as restrictions ramp up

The European Union raised the alarm on Thursday over the coronavirus pandemic, saying it is worse now than at the March peak in several member countries, as governments in Europe and beyond reimpose drastic measures, AFP reports.

EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said in “some member states, the situation is now even worse than during the peak in March”.

The death rate has not returned to the levels seen earlier this year but new infections are soaring once again, prompting the bloc’s disease control agency to flag seven countries of “high concern”.

Customers have breakfast inside a bar in the southern neighbourhood of Vallecas in Madrid, Spain, Monday, 21 September, 2src2src.

Customers have breakfast inside a bar in the southern neighbourhood of Vallecas in Madrid, Spain, Monday, 21 September, 2020. Photograph: Bernat Armangué/AP

The countries, including Spain and several of the EU’s eastern states, have “an increased proportion of hospitalised and severe cases” among older people and rising death notification rates.

Although France was not among those nations, it has tightened its measures – closing restaurants, workplaces and gyms as businesses already hammered by the earlier lockdown struggle to stay afloat.

Bars in Paris and 10 other cities will be forced to close early and the southern city of Marseille will see restaurants and bars close completely.

Local officials have reacted with anger and frustration.

Virus may be becoming more contagious

Lauren Aratani

The Covid-19 virus is continuing to mutate throughout the course of the pandemic, with experts believing it is probably becoming more contagious, as coronavirus cases in the US have started to rise once again, according to new research.

The new US study analyzed 5,000 genetic sequences of the virus, which has continued to mutate as it has spread through the population. The study did not find that mutations of the virus have made it more lethal or changed its effects, even as it may be becoming easier to catch, according to a report in the Washington Post, which noted that public health experts acknowledge all viruses have mutations, most of which are insignificant.

David Morens, a virologist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that the new study should not be over-interpreted, but added that the virus could be responding to public health interventions such as social distancing.

“All those things are barriers to transmissibility, or contagion, but as the virus becomes more contagious it statistically is better at getting around those barriers,” he said.

Morens noted that this could mean that the virus might continue to mutate even after a vaccine is available, meaning the vaccine will have to be tinkered with – just as the flu vaccine is altered each year:



Hello and welcome to today’s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

My name is Helen Sullivan and I’ll be bringing you the latest from around the world for the next few hours.

Get in touch on Twitter @helenrsullivan or via email:

The Covid-19 virus is continuing to mutate throughout the course of the pandemic, according to new research, with experts believing it is probably becoming more contagious. The study did not find that mutations of the virus have made it more lethal or changed its effects.

Meanwhile France set a new record for daily new Covid-19 cases, at more than 16,000. French health authorities reported 16,096 new confirmed coronavirus cases on Thursday, a significant increase on the previous record of 13,498 and setting a fourth all-time high of daily additional infections in eight days.

  • Hundreds of thousands of students in Scotland banned from socialising. In a set of rules agreed by Scottish university leaders, students across the country were told they will not be allowed to socialise outside their households and must avoid bars, pubs and other venues.
  • Genetic or immune defects may impair ability to fight Covid-19. A significant proportion of patients who develop life-threatening forms of Covid-19 have genetic or immunological defects that impair their ability to fight the virus, research has found.
  • Coronavirus continuing to mutate, study finds. The Covid-19 virus is continuing to mutate throughout the course of the pandemic, with experts believing it is probably becoming more contagious, as coronavirus cases in the US have started to rise once again, according to new research.
  • Italian president rebuts Johnson’s ‘freedom’ remarks over restrictions. Italy’s president, Sergio Mattarella, said its citizens “also love freedom, but we also care about seriousness”, responding to Boris Johnson’s suggestion that the UK’s rate of coronavirus infection was worse than both Italy and Germany’s because Britons loved their freedom more.
  • Spain’s tally of confirmed coronavirus infections passed 700,000 as authorities warned of tougher times ahead in the region of Madrid, which accounts for over a third of hospital admissions.The number of cases now stands at 704,209, the highest in western Europe. “Tough weeks are coming in Madrid. We must act with resolve to bring the pandemic under control,” the health minister Salvador Illa said. Authorities in Madrid could announce further measures on Friday.
  • The UK reported a record daily rise in the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases. A further 6,634 lab-confirmed positive test results took the overall number to 416,363. This doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that there are more cases now than there were during the peak in the spring, as there was a lack of community testing at that time.
  • Denmark, Slovakia, Iceland and Curaçao were removed from the UK government’s list of travel corridors. Travellers arriving in England from those countries after 4am on Saturday must self-isolate for 14 days, the transport secretary Grant Shapps said.

  • Portugal has extended measures to curb the coronavirus pandemic until at least mid-October, the government announced.The country will remain under a state of contingency until 14 October, meaning gatherings continue to be limited to 10 people and commercial establishments must close between 8pm and 11pm.

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