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China reports five new coronavirus cases in mainland on Thursday
3 July 2020, 2:54 AM

China on Friday reported five new coronavirus cases in the mainland for July 2, compared with three cases a day earlier, the health authority said.

China also reported four new asymptomatic patients, down from two a day earlier.

As of July 2, mainland China had a total of 83 542 confirmed coronavirus cases, it said.

China’s death toll from the coronavirus remained at 4 634.

Only 9% of Brazil’s COVID-19 cases are asymptomatic, study shows
3 July 2020, 2:26 AM

Less than 10% of people infected with the novel coronavirus in Brazil were asymptomatic and the majority of those who tested positive for the COVID-19 respiratory disease had mild symptoms, a survey of almost 90 000 people from all regions showed on Thursday.

According to the epidemiological research funded by Brazil’s Health Ministry and carried out by the Federal University of Pelotas in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, people who tested positive for the virus showed five main symptoms: fever, cough, alteration of smell/taste, body pain and headache.

A total of 2 064 of 89 387 people surveyed between May 14 and June 24 in three phases tested positive for antibodies, of whom 91% showed symptoms of COVID-19.

“The literature has become accustomed to saying that most patients are asymptomatic. Our study suggests that most patients have mild symptoms, but are not asymptomatic,” Pedro Hallal, professor at the Federal University of Pelotas and coordinator of the research, said at a news conference.

The research also showed the pace of transmission slowing over the course of the three phases of the study. After growing 53% from late May to early June, the transmission rate slowed to 23% from early June to the end of the same month, Hallal said.

The survey also corroborates some experts’ claims that the outbreak in Brazil is much larger than the official figures suggest, with the difference between the number of confirmed cases and the percentage of the population with antibodies as much as six times in the areas surveyed.

Hallal warned, however, that it cannot be said that the pandemic is six times greater than the almost 1.5 million cases officially confirmed in Brazil, since the study is limited to 133 cities.

“It is normal to have more people with antibodies than the confirmed cases, but whether it is exactly eight or six or 10 times depends on the dynamics of the other 5 000 cities that were not included in the survey,” he said.

Kim Jong Un says North Korea prevented coronavirus from making inroads
3 July 2020, 1:59 AM

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un told a meeting of the politburo of the ruling Workers Party the North had stopped the novel coronavirus from making inroads in the country, state news agency KCNA said on Friday.

“We have thoroughly prevented the inroad of the malignant virus and maintained a stable anti-epidemic situation despite the worldwide health crisis, which is a shining success achieved,” Kim Jong Un said in a statement carried by KCNA.

He warned against self-complacency or relaxation in the anti-epidemic effort and urged North Koreans to maintain”maximum alert”, KCNA said in a statement.

The politburo meeting on Thursday comes as many hard-hit countries are easing lockdowns, even as the world moves quickly past the grim milestones of 10 million confirmed infections and 500 000 deaths.

North Korea has reopened schools but kept a ban on public gatherings and made it mandatory for people to wear masks in public places as part of its response to the coronavirus threat, a World Health Organisation (WHO) official said on Wednesday.

While the reclusive country has not confirmed any infections, its public health ministry has reported all 922 people checked so far have tested negative.

Hundreds of people,mostly cargo handlers at seaports and land borders, are regularly quarantined for monitoring.

Thursday’s politburo meeting also touched on construction of the Pyongyang General Hospital, underway in the capital.

Kim expressed satisfaction with the project and thanked the builders for making headway under unfavorable conditions.

“Kim Jong Un made sure powerful national measures were taken for urgently solving the problems arising to brilliantly complete the hospital which would provide the people with the most advanced medical service, to be of the world standard,”KCNA said.

Irish 2020 GDP may fall by 14% in virus second wave: Central Bank
3 July 2020, 1:39 AM

Tentative signs of recovery in Ireland’s economy means it is likely to shrink by 9% this year if further stringent measures to contain the coronavirus are avoided but almost 14% if they are reimposed, the country’s central bank said on Friday.

Ireland, which has had the fastest growing economy in Europe in recent years, mostly completed a careful exit from lockdown this week but much of its services industry is operating at limited capacity and travel from abroad is severely restricted.

The central bank’s baseline outcome was similar to the 8.3% drop in gross domestic product (GDP) it forecast in April and would see unemployment fall to 12.5% by the end of the year from 22.5% last month and an average of 7% in 2022 when output would recover to its pre-crisis level.

However in the severe scenario of a resurgence of the virus at some point over the next year, unemployment would average almost 17% in 2020 and GDP would still be about 5% below its pre-crisis level in 2022.

“While the magnitude of output losses would be lower in a second phase of containment than during the first, such losses would likely be more persistent and thus more damaging to the long run potential growth rate of the economy,” the central bank said in its quarterly economic bulletin.

Both scenarios assume neighbouring Britain agrees a free trade agreement with the European Union with no tariffs and quotas on goods applying from January 2021.

Such an outcome would knock just under 1 percentage point off the growth rate of the economy in 2021 whereas a move to World Trade Organisation terms on January 1 could cause significant economic disruption and a hit of almost 3 percentage points next year, the central bank predicted.

Central Bank Director of Economics Mark Cassidy warned that the crisis could widen the rural and urban economic divide and that while more stimulus may be required to boost the recovery, the new government would also have to lay out a credible return to much lower and sustainable deficit and debt positions.

Behave yourselves, UK PM Johnson warns as pub reopening nears
3 July 2020, 1:14 AM

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will urge Britons to act responsibly when pubs reopen this weekend,warning that businesses, livelihoods and the future of the whole economy depends on it.

The latest phase in a gradual reopening of the British economy on Saturday will see pubs in England open their doors for the first time since mid March, as well as the reopening of restaurants, museums, hotels and other businesses.

The much-awaited event has been dubbed “Super Saturday” in the media, sparking worries that after months cooped up indoors,some could get carried away and risk spreading COVID-19.

“Ultimately the economic health of the whole country is dependent on every single one of us acting responsibly,” Johnson is expected to say at a news conference on Friday.

Many of the elements that define a pub will be missing when they reopen: with numbers limited, there will be no crowds, no standing at the bar and no live music.

Venues will have to keep a record of customers in case of a virus outbreak.

Johnson has previously said he is looking forward to visiting a pub himself, but has warned that patrons will have to stick to new rules.

He is expected to repeat that caution on Friday, pointing to a spike in cases that has forced the English city of Leicester to be locked down.

Johnson will warn that freedoms could be swiftly revoked if the virus takes hold elsewhere.

“Anyone who flouts social distancing and COVID-Secure rules is not only putting us all at risk but letting down those businesses and workers who have done so much to prepare for this new normal,” he will say.

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