July 29 coronavirus news

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8:10 a.m. ET, July 29, 2020

US military bases in Japan increase restrictions as Okinawa Covid-19 cases rise

From CNN’s Brad Lendon in Hong Kong and Junko Ogura in Tokyo

The U.S. Kadena Air Base is pictured in the southern Japan prefecture of Okinawa on June 22.
The U.S. Kadena Air Base is pictured in the southern Japan prefecture of Okinawa on June 22. Kyodo News/Getty Images

The US military has increased restrictions on its personnel in Okinawa to stop the spread of Covid-19, the top American military official in Japan said in a virtual press conference Wednesday. 

Lt. Gen. Kevin Schneider, the commander of US Forces Japan (USFJ), said local commanders at US installations in Japan have been instructed to tighten movements of US personnel to ensure the virus does not spread. There are 139 “active cases” of the virus among US military personnel, civilians and their families at US bases in the country, said Schneider.  

The commander has extended a public health emergency, which has been in place since April, through the middle of August, according to a joint statement by the Japanese government and USFJ. In addition, all installations in Okinawa have elevated their local health protection condition level to C+, which means significant additional restrictions are in place. 

About the cases: Okinawa prefectural government confirmed one new coronavirus case in Kadena air base in Okinawa today, bringing the total number of the infections among US military personnel in Okinawa to 237 cases since July 1. 

Okinawa recorded its highest number of daily infections at 44 new cases among Japanese today, including two people who work at the US bases. The government said Wednesday was the first time that workers at the U.S. bases tested positive.  

8:03 a.m. ET, July 29, 2020

It's just after 1 p.m. in London and 8 a.m. in New York. Here's the latest on the pandemic

The novel coronavirus has infected more than 16.7 million people worldwide and caused more than 660,000 deaths. Here's what you need to know.

  • WHO says pandemic is "one big wave": Covid-19 is also unaffected by seasonal trends and does not behave like viruses such as flu, a WHO spokesperson said Tuesday.
  • More than half Mumbai slum residents may have been infected: That's according to a study released Tuesday which raises questions over the level of testing in India. The country has the third highest number of confirmed cases in the world after the United States and Brazil.
  • Vaccine may not be ready until mid-2021, German minister says: The country's minister for research Anja Karliczek issued the warning as she unveiled fresh funding for labs working on a vaccine.
  • European Commission signs remdesivir deal: The Commission signed a €63 million ($74 million) contract with pharmaceutical company Gilead. Its purchase will help treat an estimated 30,000 patients presenting severe symptoms of coronavirus.
  • Hong Kong struggles with rising cases: The city recorded more than 100 cases for the eighth straight day in a row, as officials announced tighter restrictions in a bid to combat the spread of Covid-19.

7:58 a.m. ET, July 29, 2020

France extends financial support scheme for unemployed tourism workers

From CNN's Pierre Bairin

Tour guides protest working conditions due to the novel coronavirus disease outbreak, as they stand on columns of an art installation by French artist Daniel Buren, at the Palais Royal gardens in Paris, on July 16.
Tour guides protest working conditions due to the novel coronavirus disease outbreak, as they stand on columns of an art installation by French artist Daniel Buren, at the Palais Royal gardens in Paris, on July 16. Anne-Christine Poujuolat/AFP/Getty Images

The French government has announced that it will extend its “partial unemployment” scheme for people working in the tourism sector.

The scheme supports those unable to work during the pandemic, with those enrolled receiving up to 84% of their after-tax salary from the state.

The program was due to end in September but will be extended to December for tourism workers, France’s deputy minister for tourism, Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, said Wednesday in an interview with France Info.

"Tourism professionals need long-term support; for some it will be a lost year,” Lemoyne said.

The scheme was first introduced during the lockdown in March to help companies cope with a decline in activity. The French tourism sector has suffered greatly due to the pandemic's impact on travel.

France has also announced bailout packages for its embattled car industry and aviation industry.

7:32 a.m. ET, July 29, 2020

Covid-19 vaccine may not be available until mid-2021, German minister says

From CNN's Frederik Pleitgen

Germany’s minister for research Anja Karliczek, left, attends a cabinet meeting at the German chancellery in Berlin on July 29.
Germany’s minister for research Anja Karliczek, left, attends a cabinet meeting at the German chancellery in Berlin on July 29. Felipe Trueba/Pool/Getty Images

A coronavirus vaccine may not be available until the middle of next year, Germany’s minister for research Anja Karliczek warned Wednesday, as she announced further government funding to help accelerate the research and development process. 

“Researchers are working at an unbelievable speed, but of course setbacks are always possible,” Karliczek said. 
 “We can’t expect miracles and most expect that vaccines for the vast majority of the population will only be available in the middle of next year, at the earliest,” she added.  

Karliczek, speaking at a press briefing on Wednesday, said the German government would offer financial support to three labs currently developing coronavirus vaccines.

The three labs – led by pharmaceutical companies Biontech, Curevac and IDT Biologica – will share a grant of €750 million from the German health ministry, she said.

Officials hope the funding will help to accelerate both the research and development of the potential vaccines, while also increasing production capacity, Karliczek added.

“The three vaccine candidates are all very promising, but there can always be setbacks in the trials,” Karliczek said.

There are currently 25 vaccine candidates in the clinical evaluation stage of development and a further 139 at the preclinical stage, according to the World Health Organization.

6:56 a.m. ET, July 29, 2020

European Commission signs deal to secure access to coronavirus drug remdesivir  

From CNN's Nada Bashir

A doctoral student at the Heinrich Heine University works with samples for coronavirus research into the clinical application of the drug remdesivir, in Duesseldorf, Germany, on May 20.
A doctoral student at the Heinrich Heine University works with samples for coronavirus research into the clinical application of the drug remdesivir, in Duesseldorf, Germany, on May 20. Marcel Kusch/picture alliance/Getty Images

The European Commission has signed a €63 million ($74 million) contract with pharmaceutical company Gilead, to secure doses of antiviral drug remdesivir, the first medicine authorised by the EU for treating coronavirus.  

“The Commission has been working tirelessly with Gilead to reach an agreement to ensure that stocks of the first treatment authorised against Covid-19 are delivered to the EU,” Stella Kyriakides, the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said Wednesday in a statement.  

“A contract has been signed yesterday, less than a month after the authorisation of remdesivir, which will allow the delivery of treatments from early August for thousands of patients,” she added.  

The purchase was financed by the EU Emergency Support Instrument, a new €2.7 billion fund ($3.1 billion) which was created to help the bloc's member states recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The purchase will help treat an estimated 30,000 patients presenting severe symptoms of coronavirus.

“The Commission is now also preparing a joint procurement for further supplies of the medicine, expected to cover additional needs and supplies as from October onwards,” the statement added. 

Remdesivir was originally studied as a potential treatment for Ebola, before research revealed it could work against coronavirus. 

7:12 a.m. ET, July 29, 2020

Iran reports 2,636 new cases of coronavirus in one day  

From CNN's Ramin Mostaghim

Medical professionals work at a coronavirus testing laboratory in Tehran, Iran, on July 14.
Medical professionals work at a coronavirus testing laboratory in Tehran, Iran, on July 14. Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Iran has recorded 2,636 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 298,909. 

Health Ministry spokesman Sima Sadat Lari said Wednesday that among the cases,1,604 people have been hospitalized. 

Lari said there were 196 additional coronavirus-related deaths, bringing Iran's total death toll to 16,343. 

The country was badly hit by the virus earlier this year, with 23 members of its parliament testing positive.

Iran's government temporarily released 54,000 prisoners in an effort to curb Covid-19's spread and earlier this month President Hassan Rouhani ordered the mandatory wearing of face masks in public, after cases continued to rise.

6:35 a.m. ET, July 29, 2020

More than half of India's Mumbai slum residents may have been infected with Covid-19 -- study

From CNN's Julia Hollingsworth and Esha Mitra

A health care worker walks through an alley of a Mumbai slum during a medical check-up on July 20.
A health care worker walks through an alley of a Mumbai slum during a medical check-up on July 20. Himanshu Bhatt/NurPhoto/Getty Images

More than half of residents living in Mumbai's crowded slums may have contracted coronavirus and are likely being infected at a much higher rate than those not living in slum areas, a new study has found.

The study released Tuesday raises questions over the level of testing in India, which has the third highest number of confirmed cases in the world after the United States and Brazil.

On Wednesday, India reported it had crossed 1.5 million reported coronavirus cases after more than half a million infections were recorded in just 12 days. It took nearly six months for India to reach its first 1 million confirmed cases.

Mumbai, India's financial capital with a population of more than 12 million, has confirmed more than 110,000 cases, including at least 6,180 deaths, according to official statistics. The city is in Maharashtra, the worst-hit state in India with more than 377,000 confirmed cases and at least 14,000 deaths.

The study -- a collaboration between local authorities and medical institutions -- found that 57% of the samples collected from slum residents tested positive for coronavirus antibodies, while only 16% of those living outside of slums tested positive, according to a news release Tuesday.

Read more here.

6:26 a.m. ET, July 29, 2020

Indian state extends lockdown to end of August

From CNN's Esha Mitra 

A municipal health worker walks past a police van during a swab collection campaign at Alipore Police Station in Kolkata, West Bengal, on July 28.
A municipal health worker walks past a police van during a swab collection campaign at Alipore Police Station in Kolkata, West Bengal, on July 28. Samir Jana/Hindustan Times/Getty Images

The Indian state of West Bengal has extended its lockdown until August 31, its Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said at a news conference on Tuesday.

The lockdown will largely be a "general" one, meaning essential services will run and industrial activity will be allowed.

But in nine days in August, the east Indian state will go into a "complete" lockdown, with everyone required to stay indoors.

West Bengal has 60,830 cases of coronavirus including 1,411 deaths and 39,917 recoveries, according to the Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, as of Wednesday.

"We need to break the chain...If we can block the virus even to a certain extent we should take whatever steps we can," Banerjee said.

"A lot of people think that the numbers are too high, but earlier we had one lab for tests, now we have 56," she said.

Banerjee added that the state's health infrastructure had improved significantly in the last eight to nine years.

India has more than 1.5 million coronavirus cases, the third highest tally in the world according to Johns Hopkins University.

6:11 a.m. ET, July 29, 2020

Hong Kong reports over 100 local Covid-19 cases for eighth straight day

From CNN's Chermaine Lee

Residents are given free Covid-19 test kits by workers at a government clinic in Hong Kong on Wednesday, July 29, 2020, as part of a city-wide testing initiative.
Residents are given free Covid-19 test kits by workers at a government clinic in Hong Kong on Wednesday, July 29, 2020, as part of a city-wide testing initiative. Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images

Hong Kong continues to struggle with a fresh coronavirus outbreak, as officials reported 118 new coronavirus infections in the past 24 hours.

The data marks the eighth straight day of total cases surpassing the 100 mark, according to the head of communicable disease branch of the Department of Health, Chuang Shuk-kwan. 

Out of the fresh cases five are imported and 113 are locally transmitted.

Among the local cases, 67 are related to previous patients and 46 are currently under investigation. Kwan added that out of the 67 related cases, 54 contracted the virus in social gatherings.

Hong Kong's coronavirus death toll rose to 24 as of Wednesday morning, after an 85-year-old man died on Tuesday and a 76-year-old woman died on Wednesday.

The city has imposed its the strictest social distancing measures so far starting Wednesday, in response to the fresh outbreak.

The new restrictions include tightening gatherings from up to four people to only two, expanding mandatory mask-wearing from all indoor public places to including outdoor public places, and a complete suspension of restaurant dine-ins.