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UK to start one-hour COVID-19 tests at Heathrow from Tuesday – The Times
20 October 2020, 5:12 AM

Passengers travelling to Hong Kong and Italy from Britain’s Heathrow Airport will undergo a one-hour coronavirus test before flying out of the United Kingdom under plans to open up international travel, The Times reported on Tuesday.

Rapid tests will be introduced from Tuesday at Heathrow Airport to allow travellers to enter countries where a negative COVID-19 test result is needed to skip quarantine, the newspaper said.

Passengers require to book a test in advance at a cost of 80 pounds ($103), The Times said.

Heathrow Airport did not immediately respond when contacted by Reuters.

Aviation services firms Collinson and Swissport have set up rapid testing facilities for outbound passengers at Heathrow, the newspaper said.

The testing facilities will initially be open for four weeks and could be extended depending on passenger demand, the report added.

Both Collinson and Swissport did not immediately respond when Reuters contacted early on Tuesday.

Airlines including British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Cathay Pacific are among the first to be offering the facility to passengers in Terminals 2 and 5, Financial Times reported.

Meanwhile, British Transport Minister Grant Shapps said on Monday that he would push for an agreement on new travel corridors with the United States.

Oil prices drop for fourth day as COVID-19 second wave worries intensify
20 October 2020, 4:23 AM

Oil prices slipped for a fourth straight day on Tuesday on worries about a resurgence of coronavirus cases globally stifling a promising recovery in fuel demand, while growing output from Libya adds to plentiful supply in the market.

Brent crude futures fell 30 cents, or 0.7%, to $42.32 a barrel by 0149 GMT, after falling 31 cents on Monday.

US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures slid 26 cents, or 0.6%, to $40.57 a barrel, after losing 5 cents on Monday.

COVID-19 cases topped 40 million on Monday, according to a Reuters tally, with a growing second wave in Europe and North America having sparked new clampdowns.

“Since April we have seen a miraculous recovery in oil demand – which is now at about 92% of pre-pandemic levels, but it’s too early to declare an end to the COVID-19 oil demand destruction era,” said Rystad Energy oil markets analyst Louise Dickson.

A meeting on Monday of a ministerial panel of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies, together called OPEC+, pledged to support the oil market as concerns grow over soaring infections.

For now OPEC+ is sticking with a deal to curb output by 7.7 million barrels per day (bpd) through December, and then shaving the cuts back to 5.7 million bpd in January.

Three sources from producing countries said the planned output increase from January could be reversed if necessary.

“We don’t think oil markets are in a position to absorb the around 2% of global supply that OPEC+ are expected to restart from 1 January, 2021,” Commonwealth Bank commodities analyst Vivek Dhar said in a note.

He said rising output from Libya, which is operating outside the OPEC+ pact, was adding to oversupply concerns.

Libya is rapidly ramping up production after armed conflict shut almost all of the country’s output in January.

Output from its biggest field, Sharara, which reopened on October 11, is now at around 150 000 bpd, or about half its capacity, two industry sources told Reuters.

Meanwhile traders will be watching for crude and product inventory data from the American Petroleum Institute on Tuesday. Analysts expect US crude oil and distillate stockpiles likely fell in the latest week, according to a Reuters poll.

Asian markets under pressure as Wall Street falters, COVID-19 cases rise
20 October 2020, 3:20 AM

Asian stocks came under pressure on Tuesday as a deadline for US lawmakers to pass an economic stimulus bill approached and record daily coronavirus infections in Europe ignited concerns about more severe lockdowns.

In early Asia trade, Australian stocks dipped at the open while MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe shed 0.06%.

Chris Weston, the head of research at Melbourne brokerage Pepperstone, attributed the decline to worries about Washington’s stimulus package and positioning ahead of the November 3 US presidential election.

“Do you really want to hold those exposures into what could be a volatility event?” Weston said. “We’re getting into the Wild West territory where it becomes more whippy.”

Japan’s Nikkei 225 futures slipped 0.4%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index futures were down 0.59%.

Investors await earnings later in the week for companies including Netflix Inc and Tesla Inc.

They were also waiting to see if the final debate between US President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden on Thursday shifts the trajectory of the election.

The number of new COVID-19 cases in the United States last week rose 13% to more than 393 000, approaching levels last seen during a summer peak, according to a Reuters analysis.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.44%, the S&P 500 was 1.63% lower and the Nasdaq Composite settled down 1.65%.

The dollar edged lower on Monday as investors were cautiously optimistic that US lawmakers could agree on a fiscal stimulus package ahead of the elections, and that a coronavirus vaccine will be ready by year-end.

The dollar index fell 0.304%, with the euro up 0.02% to $1.1768.

Treasury yields pared earlier increases on Monday while oil prices dipped partly because Libya plans to boost output.

 

Argentina exceeds one million COVID-19 cases
20 October 2020, 2:17 AM

There were 1 002 662 confirmed cases of the virus in the South American country by Monday night, the ministry said in a statement. In the past 24 hours, there were 12 982 new cases reported and 451 deaths, it said.

The latest figures put it alongside the United States, India, Brazil and Russia, all with populations greatly exceeding Argentina’s 45 million people, according to a Reuters tally.

Argentina is also grappling with low levels of testing. But for those getting tested, more than 60% of recent tests are coming back positive, one of the world’s highest positivity rates.

The explosion in cases has strained hospitals and healthcare works, with intensive care unit beds in the country more than 64% occupied. In some provinces, healthcare systems are on the brink of becoming overwhelmed.

“I would like this to end now. I cannot continue at this pace,” said Cynthia Jiménez, a resident intensive care doctor at Hospital Posadas in Buenos Aires province, the country’s hardest hit area.

“It tires you to see people who come ill with respiratory failure and you have to save them,” she added. “And you know that if you intubate them, it will end badly for many. That hurts.”

Argentina imposed strict quarantine measures on March 20, shortly after the country’s first COVID-19 case was confirmed, which initially helped slow the virus’ spread.

The government has since eased restrictions in many parts of the country to help revive economic growth, leading to a rise in infections. More than 26,000 people have died, for a COVID-19 fatality rate of about 2.7%, according to Health Ministry data.

Argentina’s borders remain closed to tourism, though domestic flights have resumed for people with government approval to travel for medical, family or work reasons.

California says it will independently review coronavirus vaccine
20 October 2020, 2:01 AM

A California panel of experts will independently review the safety of new coronavirus vaccines and initial plans for distribution, Governor Gavin Newsom said on Monday.

The 11-person panel specialising in topics such as epidemiology, biostatistics, and infectious disease will review any vaccine approved by the Food and Drug Administration before it is distributed to state residents, Newsom told a news conference.

“These are top health experts that will independently review any FDA-approved vaccines,” he said. “We will do our own independently reviewed process with our world-class experts that just happen to live here in the state of California.”

The US government’s efforts to speed up development of a COVID-19 vaccine – and promises by US President Donald Trump that one could be available prior to the November 3 presidential election  – has led to concerns of political interference in the regulatory process at the expense of safety.

The FDA has vowed to ensure the safety of COVID-19 vaccines before approving them.

New York will conduct a similar review of federally approved vaccines, Governor Andrew Cuomo said last month.

The California panel will review the vaccine’s safety regardless of the outcome of the presidential election, Newsom said.

Newsom cautioned that even under the most optimistic projections a vaccine will not be widely available to California residents before next year.

“Don’t anticipate or expect that you can go down to the local pharmacy any time in this calendar year and likely get a vaccination,” he said.

The state will prioritise healthcare workers and other first responders initially in distribution.

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