Argentina partially reopens as it approaches 5m virus cases

A health worker gives a youth a shot of the Moderna vaccine for COVID-19, donated by the US government, at a health center in Quilmes Argentina, Aug 3, 2021. (GUSTAVO GARELLO / AP)

LONDON / BUENOS AIRES / SAO PAULO / SANTIAGO / HAVANA / DUBLIN / MEXICO CITY / RABAT / LIMA / LISBON – Argentina will relax coronavirus restrictions as infection and mortality rates falls, the government announced on Friday, even as the South American nation approached 5 million cases with more than 107,000 deaths.

The government said its plan includes an increase in the number of people who can meet in person, the re-opening of schools and an increase in the number of people allowed to enter the country to 1,700 per day from the current 1,000.

"The more we vaccinate and take care of ourselves, the more we can sustain these achievements and advance in sustained and progressive openings," President Alberto Fernandez said in a recorded TV message.

Vaccinations have increased in recent days after a surge in virus transmission last month, in the dead of the Southern Hemisphere winter when more people were tempted to socialize indoors, away from the icy winds coming up from the Antarctic.

Argentina, with population 45 million, adopted the plan after 10 consecutive weeks of lower case numbers and eight weeks of decreasing deaths.

However, medical experts cautioned against changes that gave the impression the pandemic was over.

The more contagious Delta variant was likely to be spreading within communities already, neurologist Conrado Estol told Reuters, while also highlighting low levels of COVID-19 testing and double-vaccination rates.

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Brazil

Brazil has registered 1,056 more COVID-19 deaths in the past 24 hours, raising its national death toll to 561,762, the health ministry said on Friday.

Meanwhile, the total caseload rose to 20,108,746 after 42,159 new cases were detected.

Brazil currently has the world's second-highest pandemic death toll after the United States, and the third-largest caseload after the United States and India.

Chile

Chile registered on Friday 1,147 new COVID-19 infections and 74 more deaths in the past 24 hours, for a cumulative total of 1,621,571 cases and 35,880 deaths.

The Ministry of Health reported that confirmed cases dropped 17 percent in the past seven days and 36 percent in 14 days.

In addition, the positivity rate was 1.82 percent nationally in the last day, according to the ministry's report.

Cuba

Cuba registered 8,886 new COVID-19 infections and 75 more deaths in the last day, bringing the total count to 439,899 cases and 3,259 deaths, the Ministry of Public Health said Friday.

There were 1,537 new cases in Havana, followed by the provinces of Cienfuegos (1,499) and Ciego de Avila (1,050), according to the ministry's director of hygiene and epidemiology Francisco Duran.

The official noted that out of the total number of COVID-19 cases registered in the last day, 21 were imported cases.

In this June 7, 2021 photo, people sit with their drinks at a table outside a re-opened pub in Dublin as bars, restaurants and cafes resumed outdoor service as part of the latest lifting of COVID-19 restrictions. (PAUL FAITH / AFP)

Ireland

The Irish Department of Health on Friday reported 1,782 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, the highest daily figure recorded in Ireland since the current wave of infections hit the country in mid-July.

"Disease incidence remains high and is continuing to increase, particularly in younger age cohorts, with a seven-day average of around 1,300," said the Irish Cabinet Committee on COVID-19 in a statement issued after its meeting on Friday morning to review the pandemic situation and the vaccination program in the country.

On July 17, Ireland reported more than 1,000 new cases, a daily level that has not been seen since this February, and the daily number of cases in the country has since then remained above the 1,000 level for more than 20 days in a row.

Mexico

Mexico’s national Health Ministry raised Mexico City to its highest Covid-19 alert level, or “red stoplight,” due to rising infections, though city officials said it was remaining at the lower “orange level.”

The ministry showed the capital and six other states at the red alert level as Covid has been spreading throughout those areas. But city communication officials told reporters in a chat group that the city is remaining at the lower orange alert.

Mexico has restricted some economic activities based on a stoplight system that ranks threat levels as green, yellow, orange and red, with green being the lowest alert and red the highest.

The Delta variant of the novel coronavirus makes up 90 percent of new COVID-19 cases in Mexico City, a municipal health official has said.

Other variants of the virus are also being monitored in the city although they do not have the same predominance as Delta, which in the capital has displaced the Alpha variant, Health Secretary Oliva Lopez said on Friday.

According to Johns Hopkins University, Mexico City has so far registered 804,298 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 35,964 people have died from the disease.

Morocco

Morocco reported on Friday 11,358 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total infections in the country to 676,638.

The death toll rose to 10,163 with 76 new fatalities during the last 24 hours, while 1,541 people are in intensive care units, according to a statement by the Ministry of Health.

Peru

Peru's President Pedro Castillo on Friday expressed confidence in China's Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine after receiving his dose.

Castillo spoke to reporters after receiving the first shot of the multi-dose vaccine at a vaccination center here, as a part of the country's vaccination campaign.

"I came to be vaccinated with this vaccine, the Sinopharm, because I have faith, not just in this vaccine, but in all vaccines," said Castillo.

He called on the public to follow suit and "prioritize this right to health," adding that the vaccine reduces the chance of ending up in intensive care units should one be infected.

Portugal

The Portuguese Ministry of Health announced on Friday that it had reached the goal of vaccinating 70 percent of the population of Portugal against COVID-19 with at least one dose.

The vaccination rate was achieved ahead of the September deadline.

According to the ministry, about 12.1 million vaccines have been administered so far, enough to immunize more than 6.9 million people with one dose while 6.2 million people have been completely vaccinated.

Russian Muslims pray in the Sobornaya mosque, Moscow Cathedral Mosque on July 20, 2021 during celebrations of Eid al-Adha (Kurban Bairam). (KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP)

Russia

Russia’s death toll from COVID-19 in June climbed to 27,118, the highest since the virus raged in January, as vaccinations lagged and the delta variant spread across the country.

The total was up 43 percent from the revised May figure of 18,996 and was nearly twice the initial figures reported by the government, according to Federal Statistics Service data released late Friday. That brings total fatalities in Russia linked to the epidemic to 316,793 through June, among the highest in the world.

Vaccine uptake has been slow, with only about 39 million people inoculated. That’s less than 30 percent of the total population. The Kremlin admitted in June that Russia would fail to reach a target of vaccinating 60 percent of the adult population by autumn.

The government’s coronavirus response staff’s daily death figures surged in June and kept climbing through July. The Federal Statistics Service’s data, released weeks later, has consistently reflected a higher number of direct deaths, as well as cases where infected people died but COVID-19 wasn’t regarded as the cause.

A surge of infections fueled by the highly-contagious delta variant forced many regions to make vaccination mandatory for some workers and adopt other measures to pressure people to get the shots.

Even as infections continue to rise in many regions, the government is learning to contain new waves faster than before, Anna Popova, head of the government’s public health watchdog, said on state television Friday.

The number of daily coronavirus infections reached the highest since the start of the year in July before starting to decline as people went on the summer vacations.

A member of staff cleans signage at Heathrow's Terminal 5 in west London on Aug 2, 2021 as quarantine restrictions ease. (TOLGA AKMEN / AFP)

UK

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson does not need to self isolate even though a member of his staff on a recent trip to Scotland tested positive for the coronavirus, his Downing Street office said.

Johnson visited a police college in Fife on Wednesday and a wind farm off Aberdeenshire on Thursday.

Local media reported a member of Johnson’s staff who accompanied him to the police college and travelled with him on a plane tested positive for coronavirus.

“The Prime Minister regularly visits communities across the UK and all aspects of visits are carried out in line with COVID guidance," a Downing Street spokesperson said.

More than 6 million COVID-19 cases have been recorded in Britain since the start of the pandemic, according to official figures released Friday.

The country reported another 31,808 coronavirus cases in the latest 24-hour period, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases in the country to 6,014,023.

Britain also recorded another 92 coronavirus-related deaths. The total number of coronavirus-related deaths in Britain now stands at 130,178. These figures only include the deaths of people who died within 28 days of their first positive test.

England's estimated R value, or coronavirus reproduction number, has fallen to between 0.8 and 1.1, which means on average every 10 people infected with COVID-19 will infect between eight and 11 others, according to the latest figures.

Meanwhile, a new government campaign has urged young people to get their jabs or risk missing out "on the good times", in a bid to get vaccination rates up.

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US

One out of two Americans were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Friday, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The milestone comes roughly eight months after the United States launched its mass vaccination drive.

The agency said 165,918,256 people, or 50 percent of the total US population was fully vaccinated, while 182,368,493 people, or 70.6 percent of the adult population, in the country had received at least one dose.

The United States had administered 349,787,479 doses of COVID-19 vaccines in the country as of Friday morning and distributed 405,102,715 doses.

The CDC tally includes two-dose vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech, as well as Johnson & Johnson's one-shot vaccine as of 6:00 am ET on Friday.