The Belgian government will convene on Friday to decide on a potential new national lockdown, with the country now suffering the highest rate of coronavirus infections per 100,000 citizens, according to official data.
The nation of 11mn people had 1,390 new Covid-19 infections per 100,000 residents over the past two weeks, data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control showed.
The Covid-19 respiratory disease is caused by the coronavirus.
New daily infections in Belgium, where the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) have their headquarters, hit a peak of more than 18,000 on October 20, almost a 10-fold rise from the high of a spring wave of the pandemic.
With 10,899 total deaths, Belgium has one of the highest per capita Covid-19 fatality rates in the world.
The United Nations meanwhile cancelled all in-person meetings at its New York headquarters yesterday after five people in Niger’s UN mission were infected with the coronavirus, diplomats said.
After largely operating virtually since New York became a global Covid-19 hotspot in March, the 193-member world body had been holding some in-person gatherings again, with Covid-19 precautions such as requiring diplomats to wear masks, social distance and restricting the number of people at meetings.
In a letter to member states late on Monday, UN General Assembly President Volkan Bozkir said the UN medical unit had recommended cancelling in-person meetings, pending contact tracing with those infected.
Nearly half a million people in the United States have contracted the novel coronavirus in the last seven days, according to a Reuters tally, as cases and hospitalisations set fresh records in hot spots in the Midwest.
More than 5,600 people died from the virus nationwide in the last week, with hospitalisations shooting up 13%, a Reuters analysis showed.
Meanwhile, the United Kingdom recorded a further 367 deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test yesterday, the highest daily toll since May 27, government data showed.
British fatalities have been rising this month and yesterday’s total marks a similar daily figure to the 374 that was recorded on March 30, a week into a national lockdown when the country largely came to a standstill.
Yesterday’s data showed that the UK had recorded a further 22,885 new Covid-19 cases, compared with the 20,890 positive cases recorded on Monday.
Greece recorded a single-day record of 1,259 confirmed coronavirus infections yesterday, health authorities said, while the education minister tested positive for the virus.
Yesterday’s jump followed 715 new cases recorded on Monday.
Yesterday’s data put Greece’s total tally of Covid-19 cases since the start of the pandemic at 32,752, with 593 deaths.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned that Germany’s health system could hit breaking point if coronavirus infections continue to spiral, ahead of a meeting to decide on new restrictions to break the second wave of the pandemic.
Mass-selling daily Bild reported that Merkel told a parliamentary group meeting that the number of newly-infected persons is doubling every seven to eight days, while the number of occupied intensive care beds is doubling every 10 days.
“It just needs to double again four more times and the system will be at a breaking point,” Bild quoted her as saying, citing participants in the meeting, adding that Merkel wanted to reduce the number of contacts people had.
Dutch senators meanwhile approved a new law to ease the Netherlands’ fight against surging coronavirus infections, opening the door to make wearing of facemasks compulsory.
Senators overwhelmingly voted in favour of temporary legislation giving parliament more control in combatting Covid-19, until now done through emergency ordinances issued by Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s government.
The law in particular provides a legal basis to enforce wearing facemasks, something Dutch ministers said they wanted to implement as soon as possible.
The country has reported a total of 311,889 cases of coronavirus infection with 7,142 deaths.
Doctors in Spain staged their first national strike in 25 years yesterday to demand better working conditions and greater recognition as the country grapples with a second wave of coronavirus infections.
About 85% of Spain’s 267,000 doctors took part in the walkout, most of them symbolically as they continued to see patients, said the State Confederation of Medical Unions (CESM) which called the 24-hour action.
Sweden, whose light-touch pandemic strategy has gained global attention, registered 1,870 new coronavirus cases on October 23, the highest since the start of the pandemic, Health Agency statistics showed yesterday.
The increase compares with a high of 1,698 daily cases recorded in late June.
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