Fastest-ever growth in global virus cases as US tops 8 million

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A patient arrives on Oct. 14, 2020 at the Emergency entrance to Maimonides Medical Center in the Borough Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, as the spread of COVID-19 continues. (REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo)
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People dine in plastic tents for social distancing at a restaurant in Manhattan on October 15, 2020 in New York City, amid the coronavirus pandemic. (AFP / Angela Weiss)
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Police officers try to assist a man in Soho, amid the outbreak of the COVID-19, in London, on Oct. 16, 2020. (REUTERS/Hannah McKay)
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French Prime Minister Jean Castex (2ndR) and Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo (R) meets medical staff at a Covid-19 test center located in the former 4th district City Hall in Paris on October 15, 2020. (AFP / POOL / Ludovic Marin)
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Updated 17 October 2020

Fastest-ever growth in global virus cases as US tops 8 million

  • India is second with 7.4 million cases and Brazil has 5.1 million
  • European countries tighten measures as second wave of COVID-19 strikes

PARIS: Coronavirus cases in the United States topped eight million Friday as the world saw the highest-ever number reported in a single day, while European countries tightened measures to control the pandemic’s spread.
The running US case tally from Johns Hopkins University is the highest in the world, followed by India at 7.4 million cases and Brazil with 5.1 million.
America has also suffered the most coronavirus deaths of any country, at over 218,000.
Worldwide, more than 400,000 new cases were reported on Friday alone, according to an AFP tally based on official data — a figure only partly explained by increased testing since the first wave of the pandemic in March-April.
Across Europe, the average number of daily infections leapt 44 percent in a single week to over 121,000.
“It’s terrible. It feels to me like being back in March,” said Hocine Saal, head of the emergency service at the hospital in the Paris suburb of Montreuil, adding that rising numbers of non-coronavirus patients made coping “really difficult.”
On Friday, Paris and other French cities marked their final night before an anti-virus curfew comes into effect, and Belgian Deputy Prime Minister Georges Gilkinet said bars and restaurants would be closed for four weeks starting Monday as “our hospitals are clogged.”
But in neighboring Germany a Berlin court overturned nighttime restrictions.
In England, millions of people were just hours away from stricter measures, including a ban on household mixing, while bars and restaurants closed in Spain’s northeastern region of Catalonia.
In Greece, the densely populated northern area of Kozani went into a new lockdown.
By imposing restrictions in certain regions only, or only during certain hours of the day, governments are trying to slow the spread of the pandemic while sparing their battered economies a damaging full-scale lockdown.
In the US, the government said its budget deficit in the year to September surged 281 percent to $3.1 trillion, after Washington massively increased spending to support activity through the outbreak.
The previous record was $1.4 trillion in 2009, during the global financial crisis.
On Friday, the number killed by the coronavirus so far topped 1.1 million worldwide, from almost 39 million cases.

Remdesivir's efficacy doubted
Meanwhile, hopes for one of the most promising coronavirus treatments, the antiviral drug remdesivir, were dashed when a study backed by the World Health Organization found it does little to prevent deaths from the disease.
But pharma giant Pfizer said that if safety data expected in the third week of November are positive, it will apply for emergency use authorization in the US for its coronavirus vaccine.
Massachusetts-based Moderna has already said it aims to apply for authorization for its candidate on November 25.
Funded by the US government, both companies have been running large-scale Phase 3 clinical trials since July and have already begun producing doses, with tens of millions potentially available by the end of the year.
But experts warn that even when vaccines are approved, it will take many months until they are widely available.
“We are operating at the speed of science. This means we may know whether or not our vaccine is effective by the end of October,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla wrote in an open letter.

Curfew in France
In France, the curfew affecting some 20 million people in Paris and eight other cities was due to start at midnight, and then come fully into force later Saturday from 9:00 p.m. to 6:00 am over the coming weeks.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex (2ndR) and Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo (R) meets medical staff at a Covid-19 test center located in the former 4th district City Hall in Paris on October 15, 2020. (AFP / POOL / Ludovic Marin)

While it has broad public support, officials are worried about the heavy social and economic costs of a measure set to last at least a month.
In many European countries, infection controls have led to a backlash from defiant local authorities and businesses desperate to make ends meet.
Marseille’s mayor Michele Rubirola — herself a doctor — said the curfew resulted from the French government’s insufficient efforts to bolster hospital systems, costing residents “their daily pleasures (and) their freedom,” and also harming hospitality businesses.

Similar unease was felt in England where London and seven other areas were facing new restrictions from Saturday, riling leaders in hard-hit northwest England, especially Manchester.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson acknowledged the restrictions were “far from a pain-free course of action.”
“But I must stress the situation in Greater Manchester is grave and it worsens with each passing day,” he added.

Police officers try to assist a man in Soho, amid the outbreak of the COVID-19, in London, on Oct. 16, 2020. (REUTERS/Hannah McKay)

Over in Berlin, irate restaurant owners successfully challenged in court an order to close bars and eateries from 11 pm.
Judges said “it was not apparent” such a measure could help fight coronavirus.
The suspension echoed a similar court ruling in Madrid earlier this month that canceled restrictions on 4.5 million people in and around the capital.
In Barcelona, people working in hospitality took to the streets, banging pots and pans and throwing eggs at the town hall after bars and restaurants were shut.
And in Brussels, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin had to leave an EU summit after coming into contact with an infected person.
The infection risks prompted some leaders to urge the bloc a return to virtual meetings, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel has already canceled a summit in Berlin on November 16.

Philippines military confirms death of militant leader

This photo taken on March 8, 2018 shows Philippine soldiers standing next to their armoured personnel carriers as they man a checkpoint along a highway near the clash site between government troops and militants in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town, Maguindanao province on the southern island of Mindanao. (AFP)
Updated 37 min 35 sec ago

Philippines military confirms death of militant leader

  • Abu Sayyaf leader Furuji Indama fatally wounded in clash with troops in Mindanao in early September
  • He was a close associate of the slain ASG leader Isnilon Hapilon, who in 2016 was designated Daesh emir in the Philippines

MANILA: Military authorities on Friday confirmed the death of Furuji Indama, senior leader of the Daesh-affiliated Abu Sayyaf militant group based on Basilan Island in the southern Philippines.

Indama, who was wanted over his involvement in a string of deadly bombings and kidnappings, was fatally wounded in a clash with troops in Zamboanga Sibugay province, Mindanao, on Sept. 9, along with several other fighters.

Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan confirmed Indama’s death, adding: “We have been monitoring his family — they already know he is dead.”

Vinluan said that local officials have offered a cash reward to anyone who could pinpoint the location of Indama’s remains.

The militant leader is believed to have been buried on an island in Zamboanga Sibugay.

Vinluan said the ASG leader had sent text messages to relatives asking them to pray as he was severely wounded and “might not last long.”

The following day Indama’s cellphone “could no longer be reached.”

Idama’s death was announced following the killing of another faction member in a clash with government forces in Basilan province in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.

Indama was a close associate of the slain ASG leader Isnilon Hapilon, who was designated as the Daesh emir of the Philippines in 2016.

After Hapilon was killed during the 2017 siege of Marawi City, Indama was touted as a likely replacement. However, a report by the US Department of Defense later named Sulu-based ASG leader Hadjan Sawadjaan as the new acting Daesh emir.

Indama is believed to have plotted a suicide bombing at a military checkpoint in Lamitan, Basilan, that killed 11 people in 2018.

In April 2016, Hapilon and Indama led 150 Abu Sayyaf fighters in an attack on government forces in Tipo-Tipo, Basilan, killing at least 18 soldiers and wounding more than 50 others.

Indama has been wanted for his involvement in the May 2001 kidnaping of 20 people, mostly foreigners, from the affluent Dos Palmas resort in Palawan.

One of the hostages, a US national, Guillermo Sobero, was beheaded by his captors. Officials said the ASG leader’s death is expected to leave the militant group in disarray. Many members have recently surrendered to government forces.

In July, the military said that Sawadjaan had been killed, but his death remains unconfirmed.