The latest on the coronavirus pandemic

By Ben Westcott, Helen Regan, Laura Smith-Spark, Ed Upright and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 12:10 a.m. ET, July 25, 2020
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8:16 a.m. ET, July 24, 2020

Covid-19 cases start to plateau in these 4 hotspots, White House coronavirus official says

From CNN's Gisela Crespo

A health care worker takes a nasal swab from a person at a Covid-19 testing site in Miami, Florida, on July 23.
A health care worker takes a nasal swab from a person at a Covid-19 testing site in Miami, Florida, on July 23. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Covid-19 cases are starting to plateau in four states that have seen large increases — Texas, California, Arizona and Florida, Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator said Friday. 

"We're already starting to see some plateauing in these critical four states that have suffered under the last four weeks. So Texas, California, Arizona and Florida, those major metros and throughout their counties," she said on the “Today" show this morning.

Birx compared what's been going on in these states to the outbreak in New York in the spring, adding "it's very serious and it's very real." 

She called on the American people to wear masks and increase social distancing "to really stop the spread of this epidemic." 

"This first wave that we see now across Florida, Texas, California, and Arizona began with under 30-year-olds — many who were asymptomatic and didn't know they were spreading it. And so, they have to assume that they're infected and positive and we all need to protect those who need our protection right now," Birx told NBC's Savannah Guthrie, referring to people with comorbidities who are at higher risk of getting severely ill from the virus. 
7:50 a.m. ET, July 24, 2020

US regulators order inspections of Boeing 737s parked in pandemic after engine failure incidents

From Pete Muntean

US federal regulators have found a serious consequence to airlines parking planes because of the coronavirus pandemic, and ordered an emergency fix. 

The Federal Aviation Administration has issued an emergency notice to all airlines that fly Boeing 737 jets, saying planes that have returned to service could have their engines suddenly fail “without the ability to restart, which could result in a forced off-airport landing.”

The 737 is the backbone of several major airlines which have been returning jets to service as they bank on a recovery in ticket sales. 

Under the directive, airlines will have to inspect engines on hundreds of the workhorse jets looking for corroded parts. 

The FAA found the engine part in question may “fail to close when power is reduced at top of descent, resulting in an unrecoverable compressor stall and the inability to restart the engine.”

The agency said the directive “was prompted by four recent” reports of incidents where an engine shut down.

7:40 a.m. ET, July 24, 2020

Red Cross warns coronavirus crisis could prompt "massive" new migration

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Secretary-General Jagan Chapagain is pictured in Geneva, Switzerland, on July 22.
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Secretary-General Jagan Chapagain is pictured in Geneva, Switzerland, on July 22. Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

The head of the Red Cross has warned in an interview with the AFP news agency that the economic damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic could lead to huge new waves of migration.

Jagan Chapagain, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said many people in poverty faced the desperate choice of risking exposure to the virus or going hungry.

“Increasingly we are seeing in many countries the impacts on the livelihoods and the food situation,” he said in Geneva late Wednesday.

“What we hear is that many people who are losing livelihoods, once the borders start opening, will feel compelled to move,” he said. “We should not be surprised if there is a massive impact on migration in the coming months and years.”

Chapagain, from Nepal, told AFP that more migration driven by desperation could result in more tragedies, such as deaths at sea. He said there was an economic as well as moral imperative to help those most in need.

“The cost of supporting the migrants, during the transit and of course when they reach the country of destination, is much more than supporting people in their livelihoods, education, health needs in their own country,” he said.

He also warned that inequalities in access to healthcare could prompt further migration.

“People could feel that there is a better chance of survival on the other side of the sea,” he said, adding that another major factor would be “the availability of vaccines.”

“If people see that the vaccine is say, for example, available in Europe but not in Africa, what happens? People want to go to a place where vaccines are available,” Chapagain said.

He condemned efforts by some countries to secure vaccine supplies for their own people first.

“The virus crosses the border, so it is pretty short-sighted to think that I vaccinate my people but leave everybody else without vaccination, and we will still be safe,” he said. “It simply doesn’t make sense.”

7:18 a.m. ET, July 24, 2020

Uganda records its first coronavirus death

From CNN's Stephanie Busari and Sarah Dean

Uganda has registered its first Covid-19 death, according to the country's Ministry of Health.

The Seychelles and Eritrea are now the only countries in Africa not to have reported a Covid-19 death, according to John Hopkins University data.

The patient was a 33-year-old Ugandan woman, from Namisindwa District, who was admitted to hospital on July 15 and treated for severe pneumonia after suffering Covid-19 symptoms. She died on July 21, the Ministry of Health said on Twitter on Thursday.

So far 30 of her contacts have been traced and placed under quarantine by local health authorities, the ministry said. They will be monitored for 14 days and tested for the virus.

Read the full story here.

7:07 a.m. ET, July 24, 2020

Major tennis tournaments scrapped over pandemic fears

From Ben Church, CNN

Eleven tennis tournaments set to be played in China this year have been canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Both the WTA and ATP have had to scrap all their remaining meetings in the country after China's General Administration of Sport announced it would not hold any international sporting events until 2021.

The canceled events include the season-ending WTA Finals in Shenzhen, which sees the best eight women of the year compete for prizes worth $14 million.

"We are extremely disappointed that our world-class events in China will not take place this year," said WTA Chairman and CEO Steve Simon in a statement.

"We do however respect the decision that has been made and are eager to return to China as soon as possible next season."

Read the full story here.

6:48 a.m. ET, July 24, 2020

Face masks now mandatory in English shops, but supermarkets won't challenge customers

A sign calling for the wearing of face coverings in shops is displayed in Leeds, England, on July 23.
A sign calling for the wearing of face coverings in shops is displayed in Leeds, England, on July 23. Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images

Face coverings are now required for anyone entering shops and supermarkets in England, as new rules intended to limit the spread of coronavirus come into force.

Guidance published by the government on Thursday said the rules also apply to banks, post offices, enclosed transport hubs and shopping malls.

Customers buying food to take away from cafes and shops must also wear a mask. However, venues such as eat-in pubs, restaurants, gyms and salons, where other precautionary measures are in place, will be exempt.

Those who fail to wear a mask could face a fine of up to £100 ($127). 

However, children under 11 and people with disabilities or certain health conditions including breathing difficulties are exempt from the requirement to cover their face.

The enforcement of the rules will left to the police.

A number of retailers in England, including major supermarkets, have said they encourage customers to wear face coverings, but that they will not enforce the rule or challenge shoppers without masks.

A Downing Street statement last week said shop employees and retailers should encourage people to comply, but enforcement would be carried out by the police.

According to the government guidance, the police have been clear throughout the pandemic that they will “engage, explain, encourage and finally enforce as a last resort.”

Downing Street announced the change last week, bringing England into line with Scotland and other European nations, such as Germany, Spain, Italy and Greece, which have already made it compulsory to wear face coverings inside shops.

UK government advice since May has been for the public to wear face coverings in enclosed public spaces where they may come into contact with people they wouldn’t usually meet. Face masks have been mandatory on public transport in England from mid-June.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it was vital for people to continue to shop safely as the country moves into the next stage of easing coronavirus restrictions.

"Everyone must play their part in fighting this virus by following this new guidance," he said. "I also want to thank the British public for all the sacrifices they are making to help keep this country safe."

London Mayor Sadiq Khan also urged people to abide by the new rules and cover their face, saying "small actions" like this could help save "countless lives."

8:30 a.m. ET, July 24, 2020

Boris Johnson calls anti-vaxxers "nuts," as he promotes flu vaccination program

From CNN's Milena Veselinovic

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits Tollgate Medical Centre in London, on Friday, July 24.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits Tollgate Medical Centre in London, on Friday, July 24. Jeremy Selwyn/WPA Pool/Getty Images

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said those opposed to vaccines were "nuts" and urged people to get a flu jab as part of the "most comprehensive" flu vaccination program in British history, according to health authorities.

"There's all these anti-vaxxers now. They are nuts, they are nuts," Johnson said as he visited a doctor's surgery in London on Friday.

The "expanded" flu vaccination program is designed to try to prevent Britain's National Health Service (NHS) from being overwhelmed if there is a second peak of coronavirus, and relieve winter pressure on emergency care, the UK's Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said in a statement on Friday.

Providers will aim to vaccinate more than 30 million people during the flu season, which is "millions more" than the number of people who received the jab last year, the DHSC statement added. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said in the statement that: "This will be the biggest flu vaccination program in history, and will help protect our NHS as we head into winter."

Johnson's handling of the coronavirus pandemic has been widely criticized across the political spectrum.

The UK is the hardest-hit country in Europe, with a death toll of more than 45,000, according to Johns Hopkins University. This is the third-highest globally behind the United States and Brazil.

6:01 a.m. ET, July 24, 2020

Hong Kong confirms 123 new coronavirus cases, its third day with over 100 cases

From Vanessa Yung and Isaac Yee

Hong Kong on Friday reported 123 additional Covid-19 cases in the highest single-day increase since the pandemic began, according to health officials in the city. 

Of the new cases, 115 were locally transmitted, according to Dr. Chuang Shuk-kwan of Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection. She added “roughly half of the cases could not be traced.” 

“We are seeing more and more cases in the past few days, the trend is still increasing,” said Chuang, warning that the city’s testing capacity, quarantine facilities and hospital capacity are reaching the limit.

“If this trend continues, it [will be] very difficult to handle the situation,” she said.

Chuang urged people to stay at home for the next one to two weeks when possible. 

Hong Kong also reported one additional coronavirus related death on Friday bringing the city-wide death toll to 16. Hong Kong has recorded 1,105 new coronavirus since the “third wave” of infections began on July 6. In total, the city has reported 2,372 cases of Covid-19. 

5:20 a.m. ET, July 24, 2020

Covid-19 cases triple in one month in southern Brazil

From journalist Márcia Reverdosa in São Paulo

In one month, the number of cases in the three states that make up the South Region of Brazil has tripled.

On June 23, Paraná, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul had registered 55,961 confirmed cases of Covid-19. That number spiked to 172,556 cases on July 22. 

Paraná state alone has jumped from 15,853 to 59,972 coronavirus cases in 30 days. The state's intensive care unit (ICU) occupancy is now at 66%. Despite reaching 15,064 cases, the capital Curitiba relaxed restrictions on Tuesday, allowing for the opening of gyms and other non-essential shops, with limited opening hours.

According to the interim Minister of Health Eduardo Pazuello, who had been visiting the region in the past two days, the curve of accumulated cases began to rise at the turn of April to May, when each state had an average of 1,000 cases.

Brazil's interim Health Minister, Eduardo Pazuello, looks on during a ceremony at Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, on July 15.
Brazil's interim Health Minister, Eduardo Pazuello, looks on during a ceremony at Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, on July 15. Andressa Anholete/Getty Images

Today, all three states each have more than 50,000 infected. 

Brazil running low on medicine: In addition, the region has been suffering from a serious shortage of basic medication used in ICUs, such as painkillers and anesthesia. Pazuello said this mirrored what was happening in other parts of Brazil.

Pazuello said the country is unable to maintain a sufficient stock of medicines for 30 days and that "we are mapping the regions where the medicines are running out to send batches before they run out of supply," he said.