US surpasses 4 million coronavirus infections: Live updates | News

  • The United States surpassed 4 million cases of coronavirus on Thursday, amid a surge in cases, predominantly in southern and western states. 

  • Death toll in Iran from the novel coronavirus has surged past 15,000 as 2,621 people tested positive in the last 24 hours.

  • Papua New Guinea has put out a call for emergency assistance to the WHO, fearful it might be facing widespread community transmission of the disease.
  • More than 15 million people around the world have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and at least 8.6 million people have recovered, while more than 622,000 have died – according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Here are the updates:

Thursday, July 23

20:50 GMT – Chile’s congress approves coronavirus pensions bill 

Chilean lawmakers punched the air and waved the national flag in Congress on Thursday after giving final approval to a government-contested bill to allow citizens to withdraw 10 percent of their pension savings to help ease the economic pain wrought by the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The bill has sped through several congressional votes with cross-party support despite staunch government opposition. The bill required a three fifths majority, 93 votes, and 116 deputies voted in favor, with 28 against and five abstentions. A number of the 71-strong ruling coalition bloc – including the president of one of its parties – voted in favor.

The chamber erupted in cheers and clapping amid chants of “no more AFP” – a reference to the long-running campaign to tear up Chile’s much-mimicked defined contribution Pension Funds Administrators (AFP) system that was introduced during the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship.

Woman hunger

A woman prepares to receive a food parcel as part of a government food parcels program distribution amid the spread of the coronavirus in Santiago, Chile [File: Ivan Alvarado/Reuters]

20:30 GMT – African Development Bank provides aid to Sahel     

The African Development Bank said Thursday it would provide $285 million in aid to Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad to help them fight the coronavirus pandemic.

The aid was being provided within the framework of a $10-billion COVID-19 response facility unveiled by the AfDB in April.     

Niger would receive support of $108.8 million, Burkina Faso $54.6 million and Mali $48.9 million in both loans and grants, a statement said.     

Chad would receive $61.2 million and Mauritania $10.2 million in the form of grants.

The spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Ougadougou

A man washes his hands before entering reopened Rood-Wooko city central market, in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso [File: Anne Mimault/Reuters]

19:50 GMT – US passes 4 million coronavirus cases

The US has surpassed 4 million coronavirus cases, according to Johns Hopkins University. 

The US is the hardest hit country in the world by the virus, with more confirmed cases and deaths than any other country. 

To date, 143,800 people have died in the country after contracting the virus, according the Johns Hopkins data. 

19:30 GMT – South Africa probes alleged corruption with coronavirus funds

South Africa is investigating dozens of alleged corruption cases involving theft or misappropriation of funds earmarked to fight the coronavirus pandemic, president Cyril Ramaphosa has said 

A special investigating team had been set up to look into “allegations of corruption in areas such as the distribution of food parcels, social relief grants, the procurement of personal protective equipment and other medical supplies,” he said.

“At least 36 cases are currently at various stages of investigation and prosecution,” the president said in a special address to the nation.     

In April, the government announced an unprecedented 500-billion-rand ($26.7-billion) economic stimulus and social relief package to cushion the impact of coronavirus. But some of those funds have been stolen, misused or relief food aid has been diverted from households in need.

18:50 GMT – South African public schools to close as cases rise over 400,000

South African public schools will close for a four-week break, with some exceptions, President Cyril Ramaphosa said in an address to the nation, as confirmed coronavirus cases rose over 400,000.

Ramaphosa said it was important to ensure that schools did not become sites of transmission at a time when the country’s coronavirus cases are rising at one of the fastest rates in the world.

Langa township in Cape Town

A student is screened as schools begin to reopen in Langa township in Cape Town [File: Mike Hutchings/Reuters]

18:30 GMT – Bolivia postpones general election until October     

Bolivia has postponed its general elections for a second time because of the coronavirus pandemic, putting it off until October 18, officials said.

The poll was originally supposed to be held in May but had been rescheduled fo September 6 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Salvador Romero, who heads the country’s electoral court, said the decision to delay the elections again came after medical experts warned that COVID-19 infections would peak in Bolivia in August or September.

18:00 GMT – French new cases rise, death toll edges up

France’s public health authority has said there had been a significant rise in new coronavirus cases, as the number of deaths in the country continues to edge up.

The number of deaths in France from COVID-19 rose by 10 from the previous day to 30,182 – the sixth highest casualty toll in the world.

The number of confirmed, new cases rose by 1,000, a 66 percent increase in three weeks, as people adhered less to social distancing measures and increased testing led to the discovery of new clusters in parts of the country.

US: Many still awaiting promised stimulus cheque

17:30 GMT – Florida reports another record virus death toll    

Florida has reported a record daily coronavirus death toll of 173 in the latest reflection of the COVID-19 surge in America.

The state health department said there were 10,249 new cases for a total of 389,868 people infected and 5,518 fatalities.     

For nearly three weeks now Florida has been reporting more than 10,000 new cases a day. Other states in the south and west of the US are also seeing alarming increases as the country now regularly reports more than 60,000 new cases a day.

A total of 82 percent of the new fatalities in this warm, sunny state popular with retirees were over age 65. And 46 percent lived or worked in nursing homes.

17:00 GMT – US evictions set to soar as pandemic protections expire

As the coronavirus began to shut down large swaths of the US economy in March, spiralling millions of people into unemployment, a patchwork of state and federal  eviction bans  were enacted to keep people in their homes.

These protections are vanishing. Moratoriums have already expired in 29 states and are about to lapse in others. On Friday, a federal stay, which protects roughly one-third of American renters who live in buildings with mortgages backed by the federal government, will run out unless Congress acts fast.

As many as 28 million people could be evicted in the coming months, according to Emily Benfer, a visiting law professor at Wake Forest University who is the co-creator of Princeton University’s Eviction Lab, a national research centre on evictions.

Read more here

Rent sign

Housing advocates are pushing for continued protections to ensure people will not lose their homes if they fell ill with COVID-19 or lost jobs in the pandemic’s economic fallout [Ross D Franklin/AP Photo]

16:40 GMT – WHO says US Brazil and India can ‘deal with’ pandemic

The World Health Organization has said that the US, Brazil and India, which are all suffering fast rises in coronavirus cases, can still get on top of the pandemic.

They are “powerful, able, democratic countries who have tremendous internal capacities to deal with this disease”, Dr Mike Ryan, head of the WHO emergencies programme, told a Geneva briefing.

US. coronavirus cases are set to exceed 4 million on Thursday, with over 2,600 new cases recorded every hour on average, the highest rate in the world, according to a Reuters tally.

16:20 GMT – WHO chief says questioning of his independence ‘unacceptable’

The World Organization Chief has said that comments questioning his independence would not distract the organisation from its work in fighting the coronavirus.

Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has come under criticism, especially from US President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who have accused him of being pro-China.

“The comments are untrue and unacceptable and without any foundation for that matter,” he said ata virtual Geneva briefing when asked about Pompeo’s comments questioning his independence.

He said politicisation was a great risk in fighting a pandemic.

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a news conference in Geneva

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has called the Trump administration allegations that he pro-China “untrue and unacceptable” [File: Fabrice Coffrini/Reuters]

16:00 GMT – Kuwait adjusts curfew, re-opens hotels 

Kuwait’s cabinet has decided to ease the Gulf country’s partial curfew slightly so that it now begins at 9PM (1800 GMT) and ends at 3 AM (midnight GMT), the country’s Center for Government Communication has said.

The country also announced on Thursday that it would enter “phase three” of its coronavirus restrictions on July 28, meaning that hotels and resorts would re-open and taxis would be able to operate.

The previous curfew had been between 8 PM (1700 GMT) and 5 AM (0200 GMT). The decision will be reviewed in a cabinet meeting after the Eid Al Adha break, the tweet said. 

Potential long-term effects of COVID-19 on human beings

15:40 GMT – Spain cases jump 2,615 amid surge in new clusters

Spain’s number of coronavirus cases jumped by 2,615 on Thursday, as the country struggles to contain a rash of fresh clusters of infections that have sprung up since the country lifted a strict lockdown a month ago.

Health ministry data showed a total of 270,166 cases on Thursday, up from 267,551 on Wednesday. Some 16,410 infections have been detected in the last 14 days, the ministry said. 

15:20 GMT – US expected to hit 4 million cases on Thursday

The United States is expected to pass 4 million cases of coronavirus on Thursday, amid a surge in cases in the southern and western states. 

The US, which is hardest hit in terms of both the number of cases and deaths, has so far recorded over 3.97 million cases and regularly been reported more than 60,000 new cases a day. 

Read more here

15:00 GMT – Uganda reports first death

Uganda has recorded its first death from the new coronavirus, the ministry of health said, making it one of the last nations on the continent to report a fatality since the pandemic reached it in March.

The country has to date reported just over 1,000 infections, according to John Hopkins University data. 

Global COVID-19 cases could be 12 times higher than reported

14:30 GMT – Virus fallout sends Sweden’s unemployment to highest since 1998     

The Swedish unemployment rate jumped to its highest level since 1998 in June, at nearly 10 percent, due to the economic fallout from the novel coronavirus, Statistics Sweden has said.   

The seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate among 16 to 64-year-olds, the statistics agency’s longest-running series, reached 9.4 percent last month, surpassing the nine percent peak in early 2010 in the wake of the financial crisis.

The rise has been steep: in January unemployment was still at 7.2 percent and in May it hit 8.6. The all-time high of the indicator dates back to June 1997 when it hit 11.7 percent at the end of the severe economic crisis that hit Sweden in the 1990s.     

According to unadjusted seasonal data, Sweden had 557,000 jobseekers in June, around 150,000 more than a year earlier. 

Who says face masks have to be boring?

14:00 GMT – Dutch museums say will be forced to close without gov’t support

Around 100 museums in the Netherlands warned they might have to close because of the coronavirus crisis if they don’t   receive financial support, the Dutch museum association said on Thursday. 

The association conducted a survey of its 430 member institutions, which showed that especially small museums with fewer than 40,000 yearly visitors are threatened by bankruptcy if they don’t receive the support.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the government provided 300 million euros (342 million dollars) in aid to cultural institutions, although   the money benefited mainly large museums, while small ones remain dependent on their own revenue, the association said. 

The museum association called for the government to support small cultural institutions as well. 

Netherlands Museum

Streets normally full with tourists sat empty at the Zaans Museum and Zaanse Schans open air museum in March amid the coronavirus pandemic [File: Peter Dejong/The Associated Press]

13:30 GMT – Iraq infections pass 100,000 mark

Iraq’s total number of infections from the coronavirus has passed 100,000, with  health ministry reporting 102,226 cases had been recorded in the country.

At least 4,122 people have died from COVID-19 in Iraq, it said in a statement.

Iraq has often recorded more than 2,000 new cases a day in recent weeks as the spread of the virus has accelerated. 

This is Joseph Stepansky in Doha taking over from my colleague Usaid Siddiqui.

12:48 GMT – New US jobless claims rise to 1.42 mn

Claims for government benefits by newly unemployed American workers rose to 1.42 million last week, the Labor Department said, reversing weeks of declines as coronavirus cases skyrocket nationwide.

The increase defied analysts’ expectations of another weekly decrease in new claims, which spiked in March as US businesses shut down to stop the spread of coronavirus put have been dropping since.

Adding to the toll were the 974,999 people in 49 states who applied for benefits under a program for workers who would not normally be eligible – an increase of nearly 20,000 from the week prior.

US unemployment

A motorist is handed a bag containing information about open positions at a drive-thru job fair in Omaha, Nebraska [Nati Harnik /AP]

12:26 GMT – WHO: More than 10,000 African health workers infected

More than 10,000 health workers in 40 African countries have been infected with the novel coronavirus, the World Health Organization (WHO) said.

The pandemic is gathering pace in Africa, with some 750,000 cases and more than 15,000 deaths across the continent, according to the WHO. 

“The growth we are seeing…is placing an ever greater strain on health services across the continent,” said WHO Africa director Matshidiso Moeti.

12:00 GMT – Cuba sets example with successful COVID-19 strategy

Cuba has been able to send thousands of doctors and nurses overseas to help other countries fight COVID-19.

That is because the island nation has had huge success containing the virus domestically, with a rigorous active screening campaign and strict restrictions.

Al Jazeera’s Ed Augustin reports from Havana, Cuba.

Cuba sets example with successful COVID-19 strategy

11:40 GMT – South Africa sees ‘huge discrepancy’ in virus, total deaths

The South African Medical Research Council is reporting a “huge discrepancy” between the country’s confirmed COVID-19 deaths and the number of excess deaths from natural causes, while Africa’s top health official says the virus is spreading there “like wildfire”.

The new report, which came out late Wednesday, shows more than 17,000 excess deaths in South Africa from May 6 to July 14 as compared to data from the past two years, while confirmed COVID-19 deaths are 5,940.

South Africa reimposes lockdown amid soaring COVID-19 cases

10:55 GMT – Iran death toll surges past 15,000

Iran confirmed 221 additional fatalities from the novel coronavirus, bringing the nationwide death toll to 15,074, according to the Health Ministry.

A further 2,621 people tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, raising the overall count to 284,034, ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said.

10:24 GMT – Proportion of COVID-19 contacts traced by British scheme rises

The proportion of the contacts of coronavirus-positive cases reached by England’s test and trace system rose in its latest week of operation, figures from the health ministry showed.

The Department of Health said 3,887 positive cases had been transferred to service in the week to 15 July, with 77.9 percent of the 16,742 identified contacts reached and advised to self-isolate, up from 72 percent the previous week.

09:57 GMT – Philippines confirms 2,200 more coronavirus cases, 28 deaths

The Philippine health ministry on Thursday reported 2,200 new coronavirus infections and 28 new deaths.

In a bulletin, the ministry said total deaths had increased to 1,871 while infections rose to 74,390.

09:30 GMT – Bahrain, Qatar have highest per capita virus rate in the world

The small, neighbouring Gulf Arab nations of Bahrain and Qatar have the world’s highest per-capita rates of coronavirus infections.

In the two countries, COVID-19 epidemics initially swept undetected through camps housing healthy, young foreign labourers.

09:10 GMT – Philippine Bishop and Duterte critic tests positive for COVID-19

Renowned Manila-based Bishop Broderick Pabillo has tested positive for the coronavirus, local Philippine media outlet Rappler reported. 

In a statement, Pabillo said his staff had tested negative, and those he came in contact with had been “duly informed”. 

Pabillo who heads the Manila archdiocese, is considered the unofficial head of the Philippine Catholic Church.

08:45 GMT – The UN wants to see cash transfers go global to fight coronavirus

Introducing a temporary basic income for the world’s poorest people will not only give them the means to buy food and medicine, but could also help stop the spread of the coronavirus, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) stresses in a new report released on Thursday.

The report, Temporary Basic Income: Protecting Poor and Vulnerable People in Developing Countries, advocates for a time-bound and unconditional cash transfer to serve as a minimum income guarantee for 2.7 billion people living under or near the poverty line in 132 developing countries.

Read more here.

08:10 GMT – Philippines re-imposes non-essential international travel ban

The Philippines has reimposed a ban on non-essential travel abroad, more than two weeks after permitting touristic trips outside the country, a government spokesman said.

Filipinos were banned from all non-essential domestic and international travel from mid-March when a lockdown was imposed to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

FILE PHOTO: Ninoy Aquino International Airport amid the coronavirus outbreak

Passengers wearing personal protective equipment for protection against COVID-19 queue at the check-in counters in Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay City, Metro Manila [File: Eloisa Lopez/Reuters]

07:45 GMT – China’s Sinopharm says coronavirus vaccine could be ready by year-end – state media

A coronavirus vaccine candidate developed by China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) could be ready for public use by the end of this year, state media reported, ahead of previous expectations that it may become available in 2021.

Sinopharm Chairman Liu Jingzhen told state broadcaster CCTV the company expects to finish late-stage human testing within about three months.

Sinopharm’s China National Biotec Group (CNBG), which is responsible for two coronavirus vaccine projects, said in June the shot may not be ready until at least 2021 as a lack of new infections in China made it difficult to find people to test it on.

07:37 GMT – Germany links over 2,000 cases to slaughterhouse

A German official says authorities have now linked more than 2,000 coronavirus infections to an outbreak at a slaughterhouse last month that led to a partial lockdown in two western counties.

Regional authorities restored some coronavirus restrictions in the Guetersloh and Warendorf areas in late June after more than 1,400 people at the Toennies slaughterhouse in Rheda-Wiedenbrueck tested positive for the virus.

07:20 GMT – Australia reports highest coronavirus deaths in 3 months, infections climb

Australia reported its highest daily number of coronavirus-related deaths in three months as new infections continued to climb in its second-most populous state.

Victoria state said it had confirmed another 403 infections, while five people had died from the virus in the last 24 hours.

The fatalities, including a man in his 50s, mark the country’s biggest one-day rise in COVID-19 deaths since late April.

outside image - Melbourne masks People wearing face masks walk while maintaining physical distance at Fitzroy Gardens in East Melbourne, Victoria, Australia [David Crosling/EPA]

07:10 GMT – Russia’s coronavirus tally nears 800,000

Russia reported 5,848 new cases of the novel coronavirus, pushing its national tally to 795,038, the fourth-largest in the world.

The country has recorded just over 12,700 deaths to date and more than 570,000 recoveries. 

06:53 GMT – South Korea reports worst economic performance in more than 20 years

South Korea’s economy recorded its worst performance in more than 20 years in the second quarter, the central bank said, as the coronavirus pandemic hammered its exports.

Asia’s fourth-largest economy contracted 2.9 percent year-on-year in the April-June period, the Bank of Korea said.

It was the fastest decline since a 3.8-percent drop in the fourth quarter of 1998, the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis.

06:20 GMT – South Africa reports new high in virus deaths

South Africa’s confirmed coronavirus cases have nearly reached 400,000 as the country reports a new daily high of 572 deaths.

South Africa is now one of the world’s top five countries in terms of reported virus cases, and it makes up more than half of the cases on the African continent with 394,948. Deaths are at 5,940.

Public hospitals are struggling as patient numbers climb, and more than 5,000 health workers have been infected.


Restaurant workers gather in Parkhurst, Johannesburg, to join a national protest organized by the Restaurant Association of South Africa (RASA) against the national lockdown regulations the government issued to fight the rise of COVID-19 [Luca Sola/AFP]

05:55 GMT – Israel names coronavirus supremo as infections grow

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has named a public health professional to head the coronavirus response, his office announced, amid mounting calls for Israel’s government to appoint a dedicated coronavirus response coordinator.

It said in a statement that the job went to Professor Ronnie Gamzu, CEO of Tel Aviv’s Sourasky medical complex, who was appointed the National Coronavirus Project Manager, his office said.

“Professor Gamzu has many years of administrative experience in the health field, including previous service as health ministry director-general,” it added.

05:20 GMT – India sets another daily record for virus cases

India’s health ministry reported a new record surge of 45,720 new coronavirus cases, taking the total tally of infections to 1,238,635.

India has recorded 685 virus deaths in the past 24 hours, as well as 444 previously unreported fatalities, bring the nationwide death toll from the pandemic to 29,861.

Many states in India have started reimposing lockdowns as health authorities struggle to trace transmissions.

Delhi corona India has the third-most coronavirus cases in the world after the United States and Brazil [Danish Siddiqui /Reuters]

Hi, this is Usaid Siddiqui in Doha taking over from my colleague Kate Mayberry.

05:00 GMT – Australia warns of record decline in economy

Australia says its economy is likely to shrink at its fastest pace in history in the second quarter. 

Officials expect the gross domestic product (GDP) to shrink by 7 percent in the three months ended June leaving Australia in its first recession in 30 years. The economy shrank 0.3 percent in the first quarter.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is also forecasting a record budget deficit as the government steps up spending to keep the economy going and people in work.

03:50 GMT – Papua New Guinea calls for WHO help over outbreak

Papua New Guinea has called on the WHO for help, citing a “high likelihood of expanded community transmission”. It has asked the WHO to deploy Emergency Medical Teams for an initial period of one month.

PNG is one of the poorest countries in the Pacific and has limited medical resources. It currently has 30 cases of COVID-19, compared with 11 on Sunday. Most of those affected are medical workers.

National pandemic response controller David Manning said the WHO was in the process of mobilising international medical teams to deploy to PNG. Manning said testing was limited beyond the capital, Port Moresby.

03:30 GMT – China reports 22 new cases – most in Xinjiang

China’s National Health Commission has reported 22 new cases of coronavirus on the mainland, most of them in the far western region of Xinjiang where mass testing is under way.

03:00 GMT – China offers $1bn loan for Latin America vaccine access

China will offer a $1bn loan to make any coronavirus vaccine it develops available to countries across Latin America and the Caribbean.

Mexico’s foreign ministry says China made the promise in a virtual meeting.

02:30 GMT – California overtakes New York in coronavirus cases

California has overtaken New York to record the highest number of coronavirus cases in any US state.

Health officials say the state’s total caseload now stands at 413,576 – about 4,700 cases more than in New York.

California’s death toll remains much lower, however. It has recorded 7,870 deaths since the start of the pandemic, compared with 25,068 in New York.

01:30 GMT – More records tumble in South America

Brazil and Argentina have both registered new daily records for coronavirus cases.

Brazil confirmed 67,860 cases on Wednesday, while Argentina recorded 5,782 cases. Both countries also reported more deaths from the disease, while Peru added 3,688 previously uncounted people to its death toll, lifting the total to 17,455.

Meanwhile, Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has still not shaken the virus, which he once referred to as nothing more than a “little flu”. A test on Wednesday – his third – showed he still had COVID-19.

00:15 GMT – South Korea’s economy in recession as exports slump

South Korea has entered recession after exports recorded their steepest decline since 1963. The economy shrank by 3.3 percent in the three months ended June, compared with the previous quarter.

Exports account for 40 percent of South Korea’s economy, and it plunged 16.6 percent.

Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki struck an optimistic note, however. He says government spending, cash handouts and a slowing pandemic could help growth recover.

South Korea

Containers at the port of Busan in South Korea on May 13, 2020 [File: Yonhap via EPA] 

00:00 GMT – Final bow? UK warns of theatre closures after lockdown

A UK parliamentary committee on arts and culture says the coronavirus lockdown has pushed British theatre to the brink of collapse.

The committee estimates that more than 15,000 theatrical performances were cancelled in the first 12 weeks of the lockdown that began on March 23, and put total losses at 603 million pounds ($768m).

The UK has about 1,100 theatres from London’s West End to smaller towns and cities around the country.

Uk theatre

Steve Clarkson, head of maintenance and facilities at the Palace Theatre in Manchester, carries out a maintenance check of the auditorium on June 19 [File: Oli Scarff/AFP]

Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Kate Mayberry in Kuala Lumpur.

Read all the updates from yesterday (July 22) here.

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