As we previewed during a brief update yesterday evening, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson late Thursday decided to impose new restrictions on travelers from France and the Netherlands, reviving worries about another wave of travel restrictions just as more European countries were tentatively reopening their borders to travelers from within the EU.
Shrugging off groans from returning holidaymakers worried about the impact on work, UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he expects 160,000 British holidaymakers heading back from France to be impacted by the new rules, which take effect Saturday. Travelers were aware of the risks when they decided to leave the country, he insisted. They’ll figure it out.
On the vaccine front, according to ITV, the UK government has secured access to a further 90 million doses of potential coronavirus vaccines, after striking new deals with J&J, Novavax and others.
As cases creep higher across Western and central Europe, France has placed Paris and the Bouches-du-Rhône department around Marseille on “virus red alert,” issuing a decree that allows local officials to impose new social distancing restrictions if need be. The move follows a rapid rise in the number of those testing positive for the virus in recent days. On Thursday, 2,669 people tested positive across France, the 4th time in a week that the number exceeded 2,000.
Jerome Salomon, the head of the French Health Agency, said the situation in his country is “worsening”.
While cases climb in France, most of those infected during this latest wave are young people, many of whom have recklessly attended illegal, or ill-advised, beach parties and other gatherings that risk allowing COVID-19 to spread.
Surprisingly, Sweden reported a surprisingly large drop in GDP on Friday, suggesting that its lockdown-averse approach wasn’t as effective as previously believed. However, as critics like CNBC latched on to the GDP numbers as the latest “proof” that Sweden’s approach was ill-advised, they fail to mention how Sweden’s new cases and deaths have slowed to a crawl.
Critics are already calling on Anders Tegnell, the country’s top epidemiologist to consider more restrictive measures to prevent a “second wave”.
In the land down under, New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern announced plans on Friday to extend a new lockdown on Auckland by 12 days as more cases are discovered in the city. In a surprising admission, the NYT on Friday blamed the new outbreaks in Australia and New Zealand – outbreaks that have expanded in defiance of lockdowns – on “border failures,” criticizing both countries for being too lax with tourists, especially passengers from “the Ruby Princess”. The commentary was spurred by Australian prosecutors’ finding that NSW Health made multiple “serious” and “inexplicable” lapses in allowing the cruise ship’s passengers to disembark without being scanned for the virus when they disembarked in Sydney back in March.
So far, the cluster linked to the cruise ship has resulted in 28 deaths, while at least 854 passengers and crew were infected.
Circling back to New Zealand, according to the latest data, the cluster of infections that began in Auckland earlier this week has grown to 30, including a probable case, while two cases were also found in the North Island town of Tokoroa, officials said.
Continuing its streak of rising daily tallies, Germany reported 1,422 new cases in the 24 hours ending Friday morning, up from 1,319 the previous day and bringing its total to 222,281, according to JHU data. Meanwhile, Germany’s infection rate – represented algebraically as “R” – has remained below the key level of 1, above which denotes expansion.
In Latin America, officials in Peru reported that the country’s death toll may have surpassed 50k, while Brazil reported 60,091 new cases on Thursday evening, the biggest daily increase since July 29, according to the Health Ministry. That pushed Brazil’s total north of 3.2 million.
Meanwhile, Mexico reported 7,371 new cases pushing the total to 505,751, according to data released by the Health Ministry. Deaths climbed by 627 to 55,293.
Tokyo confirmed 389 new cases of coronavirus on Friday, up from 206 the day before. The city reported 462 cases last Friday, its biggest daily total yet. Finally, in a particularly alarming development, South Korea has confirmed 103 more cases during 24 hours, nearly double the 56 cases reported a day earlier, per the KCDC. Of these, 85 were locally infected, and 18 were imported.
Across the border, North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un has lifted a lockdown affecting the border city of Kaesong, which was imposed following worries about a former citizen who fled back to the country after defecting a few years ago possibly spreading COVID to the local population.