The Latest: Brazil agrees to help produce COVID-19 vaccine
BRASILIA, Brazil -- The Brazilian government announced on Saturday an agreement with Oxford University and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to produce a promising coronavirus vaccine that is undergoing tests.
Brazilian Health Ministry authorities said in a press conference that the country will pay $127 million and receive material to produce 30.4 million doses in two batches in December and January, which would allow it to quickly start inoculation efforts if the vaccine is certified to be safe and effective.
The total deal is for 100 million vaccines for a country of about 210 million residents. It will be produced by local vaccine maker Fiocruz.
British researchers started testing the experimental shot in May aiming to immunize more than 10,000 people, including older people and children. The vaccine is one of about a dozen in the early stages of human testing.
Brazil, where coronavirus infections are still on the rise, counts more than 1 million confirmed cases and more than 55,900 fatalities.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— US citizens are unlikely to be among those allowed into Europe initially
— US states reimpose virus restrictions; Asia sees new cases
— Coronavirus task force briefs — but not at White House
— A hard-hit tribe in Arizona is putting tougher restrictions in place to prevent further spread of the coronavirus in a state where infections are surging. The White Mountain Apache Tribe has ordered residents to go on lockdown this weekend or risk fines.
— Witnesses say that hospitals in the capital of Venezuela’s main oil-producing state are filled with coronavirus patients and dozens of health workers have been infected. These are the first reports the pandemic is overwhelming the country’s debilitated health care system.
— The governor of a southern Italian region is insisting that residents who live in an apartment complex where many Bulgarian seasonal farm workers tested positive for COVID-19 stay inside for 15 days, not even emerging to buy food.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence is calling off a planned bus tour in Florida to benefit his and President Donald Trump’s re-election as the state experiences a surge in confirmed coronavirus cases.
Pence is still traveling to the state, the White House confirmed, saying he will meet with Gov. Ron DeSantis and his health care teams.
Pence said Friday during a briefing by the White House’s coronavirus task force that he would visit Florida, Texas and Arizona this week to receive a “ground report” on spiking cases of COVD-19 across the sunbelt.
Pence was to appear in Lake Wales at an event organized by pro-Trump group America First Policies billed as the “Great American Comeback tour.” The group announced that “Out of an abundance of caution at this time, we are postponing the Great American Comeback tour stop in Florida. We look forward to rescheduling soon.”
MIAMI — The state of Florida has set another record in daily confirmed coronavirus cases.
Florida health officials on Saturday reported more than 9,500 new COVID-19 cases, surpassing the previous day’s total by more than 600 confirmed cases. The figures come as officials move to reclose beaches and discourage bar gatherings.
Experts say the true figure is undoubtedly higher. This is both because of incomplete testing and because it is becoming clearer to scientists that a significant number of people become infected with the virus but do not feel sick or show symptoms.
The state’s Department of Health said 24 more people have died with COVID-19, raising the death toll to 3,390.
Hospitalizations for COVID-19 also are ticking upward statewide. Although they are not rising as dramatically as the reported number of cases, they are approaching the levels of new admissions seen in April and May.
Miami-Dade County announced late Friday it would reclose beaches from July 3 to July 7 to prevent large gatherings and the spread of the new virus during Fourth of July celebrations in the state’s hardest hit area.
ROME — Italy has registered the lowest day-to-day tally of COVID-19 deaths on Saturday since March 1, a week before the country went into nationwide lockdown.
According to Health Ministry data, there were eight deaths of infected patients since Friday, raising the nation’s known toll in the pandemic to 34,716.
There were 175 new cases, bringing the overall count of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country where Europe’s outbreak first exploded to 240,136.
Authorities have said since many people with mild symptoms don’t get tested, the actual number is certainly higher. For the first time since the very early days of the outbreak, fewer than 100 infected patients were occupying intensive care unit beds nationwide. In early April, more than 4,000 COVID-19 patients occupied ICU beds, as the nation’s health system in northern Italy struggled to care for several thousand new cases each day.
BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel cautioned Saturday that the coronavirus pandemic is far from over, as regional outbreaks gave rise to fears of a second wave.
Merkel said in her weekly video podcast that getting Europe’s economy back on track is her primary goal as Germany takes over the rotating European Union presidency next week, but stressed that everyone shared a “joint responsibility” in following social distancing, mask and hygiene rules as lockdown rules are relaxed.
German authorities renewed a lockdown in a western region of about 500,000 people in the past week after about 1,300 slaughterhouse workers tested positive for COVID-19, in an attempt to prevent the outbreak from spreading across the area.
Germany has recorded nearly 195,000 coronavirus infections and only around 9,000 deaths, with more than 177,000 recoveries, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.
BELGRADE, Serbia — The Serbian government says Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin has tested positive for the coronavirus.
The Defense Ministry says in a statement issued on Saturday that Vulin has no symptoms of the virus and is feeling fine.
Vulin, known for his highly pro-Russian stance, was part of Serbia’s delegation led by President Aleksandar Vucic that attended a Victory Day parade this week in Moscow. Vucic met face to face with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but it was not clear whether Vulin did so as well.
Maja Gojkovic, the speaker of Serbia’s parliament, also tested positive, according to the state Tanjug news agency on Saturday.
Serbia has seen a spike in coronavirus cases since lifting strict lockdown measures in May, allowing large gatherings without obligatory social distancing or masks.
Vucic has announced he will reintroduce the tough measures if the spike continues. Serbia has so far registered more than 13,500 cases and 265 deaths from COVID-19.
JOHANNESBURG — Britain’s Royal Air Force says the first in a series of flights taking coronavirus aid to Africa has departed for Ghana with materials for a field hospital with capacity for nearly 100 people.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement that the U.K. is the first NATO ally to come forward with an aid flight after NATO agreed to support the United Nations’ appeal for airlift assistance.
The pandemic and travel restrictions have severely affected flights to the African continent and the delivery of crucial cargo including medical supplies.
The U.K. says up to five flights are needed to deliver the field hospital to Accra. Ghana has more than 15,000 confirmed virus cases.
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan has announced a record increase in fuel prices days before the end of a fiscal year in which the country’s economy contracted for the first time in 68 years as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The hike, which ranges from 27% to 66% depending on the petroleum product, was announced Friday night. It drew nationwide condemnation from people on social media Saturday.
The move comes two weeks after Islamabad said its GDP in the outgoing fiscal year ending on June 30 will shrink by 0.4%, instead of an initially projected 2.4% growth.
Pakistan’s economy has witnessed a steady decline since 2018, when Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government came into power.
Its economy has been affected by the coronavirus since March, when Khan put the country under lockdown. Restrictions were eased in May, causing a spike in coronavirus infections and deaths.
Pakistan has confirmed 198,883 virus cases, including 4,035 deaths.
CAIRO — Egypt has lifted many of the restrictions put in place to fight the coronavirus pandemic, reopening cafes, clubs, gyms and theaters after more than three months of closure. Authorities also allowed the reopening of mosques and churches.
The government has been eager to resuscitate the Egyptian economy, which was hit hard by the virus outbreak.
In Cairo, a sprawling and bustling metropolis of some 20 million people, coffee shops reopened Saturday to receive in-house customers for the first time since mid-March. But the smoking of “sheesha” from hookah waterpipes is no longer offered due to sanitary concerns.
Cafes have been allowed to reopen at only 25% seating capacity, according to Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly.
Mosques and churches will not be allowed to hold their weekly main services, when large crowds traditionally gather for worship. The government has banned Friday prayers at mosques and Sunday Masses at churches, Madbouly said.
LONDON — Britain’s government is moving to make summer vacation travel possible as it moves to ease restrictions imposed amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The government is expected to scrap a 14-day quarantine requirement that forced people to self-isolate upon returning home from abroad. It will be replaced with a traffic light system, with officials placing countries into green, amber and red categories based on the prevalence of the virus.
Only travelers returning to the U.K. from “red’’ zones or places with a high level of COVID-19 will be told to self-isolate.
A full list of countries is due to be published next week, but it is likely that Spain, Greece and France will be given a green light.
NEW DELHI — India’s confirmed coronavirus cases crossed half a million on Saturday with another record 24-hour jump of 18,552 infections.
The Health Ministry also reported 384 new deaths, raising the total to 15,685.
The surge prompted authorities in the northeastern state of Assam to impose a two-week lockdown in the state capital of Gauhati. About 700 new cases were reported there in just four days.
Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said the rest of Assam will be placed under a night curfew and weekend lockdowns.
He urged people to store essential goods and signaled a tighter lockdown where even grocery stores would be closed.
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 51 more confirmed coronavirus cases as new clusters emerge in the densely populated Seoul area where people have been increasingly venturing out despite government warnings against complacency.
Thirty-five of the new cases are in the capital region, which is at the center of a COVID-19 resurgence threatening to erase earlier gains against the virus.
Authorities are struggling to trace contacts and predict infection routes as new clusters pop up. Hundreds of infections have been linked to nightspots, church gatherings, restaurants and low-income workers who couldn’t afford to stay home.
Officials are resisting calls to reimpose stronger social distancing guidelines, concerned about hurting the economy.
BEIJING — China has reported an uptick in new coronavirus cases a day after national health authorities said they expected an outbreak in Beijing to be brought under control soon.
The National Health Commission said Saturday that 21 more cases had been confirmed nationwide in the latest 24-hour period, including 17 in the nation’s capital.
City officials have temporarily shut a huge wholesale food market where the virus spread widely, re-closed schools and locked down some neighborhoods. Anyone leaving Beijing is required to have a negative virus test result within the previous seven days. Many Chinese are traveling during a four-day holiday weekend that ends Sunday.
China has reported 83,483 cases and 4,634 deaths in the pandemic. It does not include in the numbers people who test positive but don't show symptoms.
CANBERRA, Australia — Australian health officials are expecting more cases of COVID-19 as hundreds of nationals return from overseas to begin mandatory quarantine.
About 300 people are due to arrive in Adelaide this weekend from Mumbai, India, while hundreds are expected to follow from South America and Indonesia.
People in hotel quarantine will be tested for the coronavirus at the start and end of their 14-day isolation.
South Australia state Health Minister Stephen Wade says he is preparing for about 5% to 10% of returnees being infected, as was the case when people arrived from Indonesia in other states.
Melbourne reported 30 new cases Friday, continuing a run of double-digit increases that has more than tripled Victoria state’s active cases to 183 in just over a week.
In all, Australia has had 104 COVID-19 deaths and nearly 7,600 confirmed cases.
AUSTIN, Texas — Texas has surpassed 5,000 hospitalized coronavirus patients for the first time as Gov. Greg Abbott continues a dramatic retreat in his aggressive reopening of America’s second-biggest state.
In Houston, county officials Friday elevated a public threat warning system to the highest level. Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said “We never brought the curve all the way down. We only flattened it.”
Hospitalizations in Texas, reported by state health officials, have now skyrocketed more than threefold over the past month. New records are set daily, and Abbott has brought back a ban on elective surgeries to free up beds.
His latest orders shuttered bars indefinitely and ordered restaurants dining rooms to scale back on seating customers.
RANCHO CORDOVA, Calif. — Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday that he wants an agricultural Southern California county to reimpose stay-home orders amid a surge in positive coronavirus tests there and through much of the state.
Imperial County, with a population of 175,000 people on the state’s border with Mexico, has been the slowest in the state to reopen amid continued high positivity rates, which have averaged 23% in the last week, compared with 5.7% statewide.
The Imperial Valley, which provides many of the vegetables in U.S. supermarkets in the winter, lies across the border from Mexicali, a sprawling industrial city of 1 million people that has enormous influence on its economy and culture.
Newsom said San Francisco is also pausing plans to reopen businesses that were expected to open Monday, such as hair salons, museums and outdoor bars.
NEW YORK — A federal judge has blocked New York state from enforcing coronavirus restrictions limiting indoor religious gatherings to 25% capacity when other types of gatherings are limited to 50%.
Judge Gary Sharpe acted Friday to enjoin Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Attorney General Letitia James from enforcing some of the capacity restrictions put in place by executive order to contain the spread of the virus.
A spokesperson for Cuomo said the governor’s office will review the decision. A spokesperson for the New York City law department said city lawyers would review the ruling as well.
NEW ORLEANS -- The number of reported COVID-19 cases in Louisiana took another large one-day jump, increasing Friday by more than 1,300 as the number of people hospitalized with the disease caused by the new coronavirus continued upward.
The state reported a total of 54,769 confirmed cases as of midday. The death toll was 3,077, up by 26 from Thursday.
Some of the growth in known case numbers can be attributed to increased testing. However, the number of people sick enough to be hospitalized — considered a key indicator that the virus is spreading — went up to 700. The figure is down from nearly 2,000 in April but up from a low of 542 on June 13.
The increasing numbers led Gov. John Bel Edwards this week to delay plans to further lift restrictions on public gatherings and some business activity. Edwards has promised stepped up enforcement on businesses that aren’t complying with virus-related restrictions on capacity and requirements that employees dealing with the public wear masks.
Friday marked Louisiana’s second one-day spike of more than 1,300 this week.
UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations is marking its 75th anniversary with a scaled-down event because of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of many challenges a deeply divided world must tackle along with poverty, inequality, discrimination and unending wars.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told Friday’s virtual commemoration of the signing of the U.N. Charter that “global pressures are spiraling up” and “today’s realities are as forbidding as ever.”
He said people continue to lose trust in political establishments and has spoken of rising populism threatening multilateralism and denounced xenophobia, racism and intolerance.
“Today’s marches against racism were preceded by widespread protests against inequality, discrimination, corruption and lack of opportunities all over the world – grievances that still need to be addressed, including with a renewed social contract,” he said in a video address.
“Meanwhile,” Guterres said, “other fundamental fragilities have only grown: the climate crisis, environmental degradation, cyberattacks, nuclear proliferation, a push-back on human rights and the risk of another pandemic.”
He stressed the urgent need for global cooperation.
“One virus ... has put us on our knees, and we have not been able to fight it effectively,” Guterres told reporters Thursday. “It’s spreading now everywhere. There was no control, no effective coordination among member states. We are divided in fighting COVID‑19.”