Global report: South Korea fears fresh nationwide outbreak
South Korea has recorded seven straight days of new cases in triple figures, as authorities warn of a grave situation, with infections seeding across the country. It comes as Australia’s Qantas airline reported a 91% drop in profit and says travel to the US was unlikely to happen before there’s a vaccine.
On Thursday, South Korea recorded 288 new cases, taking the total over the past week to 1,500. Many cases are linked to the cluster at the Sarang Jeil church in northern Seoul, which has grown to 623, according to the Yonhap news agency.
The church is run by a radical conservative preacher whose followers have also attended anti-government protests in central Seoul in recent weeks, seeding infections there too, it’s believed.
“The reason we take the recent situation seriously is because this transmission, which began to spread around a specific religious facility, is appearing nationwide through certain rallies,” vice health minister, Kim Gang-lip, told a briefing.
The positive cases from the rallies include people from nine different cities and provinces. Kim did not identify those places but said 114 facilities, including the places of work of infected people, were facing risk of transmission.
“This is a grave situation that could possibly lead to a nationwide pandemic,” Kim said.
India has recorded its highest daily total of new cases, with 69,672 infections. It is the fourth-highest daily total reported globally, only exceeded by the US on three occasions in second half of July.
Total cases in the country now number 2.84 million, data from the federal health ministry showed. Total deaths stand at 53,886. India is the worst-hit country in Asia and third only behind the United States and Brazil in terms of numbers of infections.
In Australia, the chief executive of Qantas declared its worst financial year in a century, with profits falling 91%.
“Covid punched a $4bn hole in our revenue and a $1.2bn hole in our underlying profit,” said Alan Joyce, lamenting international and internal Australian border closures as key reasons for the airline’s decline.
Joyce confirmed he did not think the airline would fly internationally again until at least mid-2021 and said he thought flights to the US would likely not resume until there was a vaccine for Covid-19.
“The US, with the level of prevalence, is probably going to take some time,” he said. “It will probably need a vaccine before we could see that happening,” adding that a treatment might not be available until the end of 2021.
Elsewhere in Australia, the outbreak in the state of Victoria continued to stabilise, with 240 new infections and 13 deaths. Neighbouring New South Wales reported just five new cases.
New Zealand reported five new cases of Covid-19, all related to the community outbreak in Auckland. It comes as a survey suggested three-quarters of all New Zealanders intended to get immunised when a vaccine became available, putting it ahead of the UK, US and Germany in citizens’ willingness to be vaccinated.
Meanwhile, the country’s unflappable health director-general, Dr Ashely Bloomfield, who carries out each day’s press conference updates, has been nominated for New Zealander of the year, as has Jacinda Ardern. But in a year of Covid, the pair face tough competition from a cat in Wellington called Mittens, who has 50,000 followers on Facebook.
In the US, Florida passed 10,000 deaths from the coronavirus, almost six months after the first case in the state was identified. Florida now has the fifth highest death toll in the US. The only other states to have reached 10,000 deaths are New York, New Jersey, California and Texas.
Los Angeles county has the most Covid cases of any county in the US with a total of 224,105. It is also on track to record the most deaths of any county in the US. Currently, it has recorded 5,340 deaths, which puts it in third place nationally behind Queens (NY, 5,977) and Kings (NY, 5,639). However LA county’s infection total of 224,105 is more than three times that of Queens (68,596) or Kings (63,167).
France on Wednesday recorded new coronavirus cases at the fastest daily rate since May, official figures showed, as the country prepared for the return from summer holidays. Almost 3,800 infections were confirmed.
“All indicators continue to climb and transmission of the virus is intensifying,” the health ministry’s DGS public health division said in a statement
Nationwide, more than 16,700 infections have been detected over the past week.
In other coronavirus developments:
Global infections stand at 22.3m and deaths at 786,000, according to the Johns Hopkins university tracker.
China has reported seven new cases of Covid-19, all of which the national health commission says were imported (three in Jiangxi, one in Tianjin, one in Shanghai, one in Shandong, and one in Sichuan). There were no new deaths and no new suspected cases, it said.
Italy recorded 642 new infections in a day on Wednesday, hitting a new record since May when the country cautiously emerged from one of the longest lockdowns in the world after more than 30,000 Covid-related deaths.
Spain’s health ministry said 3,715 coronavirus infections were diagnosed in the 24 hours to Wednesday, a new single-day record since the country emerged from a three-month lockdown in mid-June.