August 7 coronavirus news

By Joshua Berlinger, Adam Renton, Zamira Rahim and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 12:53 a.m. ET, August 8, 2020
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6:27 a.m. ET, August 7, 2020

US school district announces virtual classes after more than 90 staff members quarantine

From CNN's Alta Spells

Schools in a district in the US state of Georgia will operate remotely after dozens of staff members were placed in quarantine.

The Barrow County School System (BCSS) will work virtually instead of offering some in-person learning as originally planned, officials announced in a statement Wednesday.

Education officials came to the decision after more than 90 BCSS staff "had to quarantine due to a confirmed case of Covid-19, a suspected case, or direct contact with a confirmed case," the statement said.

“It was our sincere desire to welcome students back into schools for in-person learning. We know that students learn best inside a traditional classroom. We are attempting to make that happen while keeping student and staff safety at the forefront,” said Superintendent Chris McMichael.
“If today was the first day of school, we would have been hard-pressed to have sufficient staff available to open our schools,” McMichael added.

He called the decision a "very difficult" one based on the "increasing number of Covid-19 cases in our county." 

In the statement, the district acknowledged "the difficulties that 100% online learning will cause for families" and said it was planning a phased approach to bring students back into the classrooms as quickly as possible.

The school year is scheduled to begin for all students in the Barrow County School System on Monday, August 17.

The state of Georgia has 204,895 confirmed coronavirus cases overall, and more than 4,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

5:49 a.m. ET, August 7, 2020

Hong Kong to launch voluntary universal coronavirus testing

From Phoebe Lai in Hong Kong

Pedestrians wearing masks are seen in Hong Kong's Central district on August 6.
Pedestrians wearing masks are seen in Hong Kong's Central district on August 6. Isaac Lawrence/AFP/Getty Images

Hong Kong will offer universal, voluntary coronavirus testing for all citizens, the city's Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced Friday. 

Lam said she hoped the testing scheme would launch in two weeks time.

“This is an entirely voluntary program to provide testing for those who want to have a test either to find out whether they are infected or they just want to be more sure that they are safe in that sense,” Lam said.
“The new coronavirus pandemic is still severe. The overall number is still high.”

Hong Kong officials have moved to contain a third wave of the virus, as cases continue to rise across the city.

Officials requested support from Beijing in late July to help increase its virus detection capability and its community treatment resources, Lam said Friday.

Sitting in front of backdrop reading “Fight the Virus with Central Government’s Full Support,” Lam added that Hong Kong will build an additional temporary hospital near the city's Asia World-Expo treatment center.

Beds are seen at a temporary field hospital set up at Asia World Expo in Hong Kong on August 1.
Beds are seen at a temporary field hospital set up at Asia World Expo in Hong Kong on August 1. Anthony Kwan/Getty Images

A new testing lab will also be built at the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park Sports Centre, in an effort to ease pressure on hospitals.

Hong Kong confirmed 89 new cases of Covid-19 in the city on Friday, bringing its total number of confirmed cases to 3,939.

The city has been reporting between 80 and 95 cases daily since Monday this week.

5:32 a.m. ET, August 7, 2020

Young women more likely to experience poor mental health in lockdown, UK study suggests

Poor mental health during lockdown was most common among younger women in Britain, a study from University College London (UCL) suggests.

UCL researchers surveyed more than 18,000 people in four cohorts -- those aged 62, 50, 30 and 19 -- in research conducted in May 2020 during Britain's coronavirus lockdown.

They found that poor mental health during the lockdown was most common among the 19-year-olds, followed by the 30-year-old bracket. Women were more likely than men to experience difficulties with mental health across all four age categories.

Over a third of women and a quarter of the men among the 19-year-olds had symptoms of depression during lockdown in May, and 45% of women and 42% of men said they felt lonely during this time, according to the study.

The researchers had data on the three older cohorts across several years, predating the pandemic. They found the 30-year-old women displayed a significant increase in poor mental health during the lockdown, when compared to when they were last surveyed at the age of 25.

“This change in mental health between age 25 and 30 will reflect change that may naturally occur at this stage of life, as well as change attributable to the pandemic, however this finding chimes with other studies which have also shown that young women have experienced the largest increase in mental health problems due to Covid-19," said Professor Emla Fitzsimons, the study's co-author.

UCL noted that the study was limited by the fact that it includes people at specific ages rather than at all ages.

"However the findings about high levels of difficulties especially among young women at the ages of 19 and 30 are likely to apply to young women in their twenties too," the university said in a statement.

"Our findings clearly highlight high levels of difficulties being experienced by young people aged 19 and 30, especially young women," said Dr. Praveetha Patalay, a co-author of the briefing.
"More needs to be done to support these age groups and limit the impact of the pandemic on their future health and wellbeing.”
4:46 a.m. ET, August 7, 2020

Catch up on the latest coronavirus headlines

It's nearing 11 a.m. in Berlin and 2:30 p.m. in New Delhi. If you're just tuning in, here's the latest on the pandemic.

  • Bleak thresholds passed: Total worldwide coronavirus topped 19 million on Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University's tally. Africa has surpassed 1 million cases across the continent, while India became the third country to record more than 2 million infections.
  • Germany's cases jump: Thursday marked the first time in almost three months that Germany recorded more than 1,000 new Covid-19 cases in a single day amid a spike in new infections.
  • A spike in Peru: Authorities identified 7,785 new Covid-19 patients Thursday, the highest number of cases reported in a single day in Peru since the pandemic began. The country has the third-highest caseload in Latin America, behind only Brazil and Mexico.
  • More cases in Japan: The Health Ministry recorded 1,490 Covid-19 infections on Thursday, the second-highest number of cases Japan has identified in a single day. More than half of Japan's 44,527 cases have been reported since the beginning of July.
  • Pakistan’s plan to reopen: Authorities are allowing tourist hot spots, restaurants, salons and movie theaters to reopen next week due to a continued downturn in coronavirus infections. Data from the Ministry of Health shows that cases and fatalities have both dropped 80% since their peaks in June.
4:20 a.m. ET, August 7, 2020

A South Korean NGO is sending Covid-19 test kits to North Korea

From CNN's Yoonjung Seo in Seoul, South Korea

The South Korean government has approved a private organization's request to send Covid-19 relief products to North Korea.

The group, the Inter-Korean Economic Cooperation Research Center (IKECRC), said it plans to send 10,000 virus test kits, 20 thermal cameras and a real-time PCR test set to Pyongyang. Kim Han-shin, who leads IKECRC, said the South Korean Unification Ministry approved the shipment on Friday.

North Korea has not publicly confirmed the existence of a single case of Covid-19, but experts are dubious that the virus did not cross into its borders at some point. However, Pyongyang is taking the virus' threat very seriously. The city of Kaesong was placed under lockdown last month after reports that a North Korean defector might have returned to the country from South Korea while possibly infected.

Kim said IKECRC “will try to complete all necessary preparations by this week so they can be sent into North Korea as soon as possible.”

The goods are worth about $1 million, he said. The shipment is not a violation of the punitive United Nations sanctions levied on North Korea for its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile program.

The UN Security Council approved IKECRC's sanctions exemption requests last month, shortly before the South Korean government gave its own assent.

According to Kim, his group was able to raise funds for these products through help from a local government, but he didn’t reveal which local government that was.

Since the coronavirus outbreak, 40 tons of disinfectant and 20,000 hazmat suits have been sent to North Korea by private groups from South Korea, a Unification Ministry official said. The disinfectants and hazmat suits arrived in North Korea in early May and late July, respectively, according to the ministry.

4:12 a.m. ET, August 7, 2020

Whoever finds a Covid-19 vaccine "must share it," Australian prime minister says

From CNN's Jadyn Sham in Hong Kong

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, on July 30.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, on July 30. Sean Davey/Getty Images

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said at a Friday news conference he believes any country that eventually produces a viable Covid-19 vaccine needs to share it with the world.

Whoever finds this vaccine must share it," Morrison said. "Any country that was to find this vaccine, and not make it available around the world without restraint ... will be judged terribly by history."

Morrison also pledged that if Australia finds the vaccine, "we will share it."

He also said that Australia is well-positioned to take advantage and be "in a position to be able to manufacture and supply vaccines should they be developed."

Where Australia's vaccine efforts stand: Australia's research and development for a coronavirus vaccine around the world are happening at "warp speed," said Paul Kelly, the country's acting chief medical officer.

Kelly also said the Australian government is looking "very clearly and carefully" into advance purchasing options, as well as local manufacturing options for potential vaccines.

3:44 a.m. ET, August 7, 2020

Germany reports more than 1,100 new coronavirus cases

 From CNN’s Fred Pleitgen in Berlin

Germany reported 1,147 new coronavirus cases on Friday, according to the country's center for disease control, the Robert Koch Institute. 

The death toll rose by eight to 9,183, the center reported.

Germany is currently experiencing a spike in coronavirus infections. Thursday marked the first time in almost three months that more than 1,000 new infections were recorded in a single day.

To date, more than 215,000 cases of Covid-19 have been identified in Germany, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Starting on Saturday, visitors to the country arriving from high-risk areas will be required to undergo a coronavirus test. 

3:24 a.m. ET, August 7, 2020

Pakistan relaxes lockdown measures as Covid-19 case numbers fall 80% from peak

From CNN’s Sophia Saifi in Islamabad

Pakistan’s government has announced plans to reopen tourist hot spots, restaurants, salons and movie theaters next week due to a continued drop in coronavirus infections in the country.

The country has identified 281,863 cases of Covid-19 since the pandemic began, and at least 6,035 patients have died. Authorities reported Friday that 727 cases and 21 fatalities had been identified in the previous 24 hours.

However, numbers are down overall. Data from the Ministry of Health shows that coronavirus cases and fatalities have both dropped 80% since their peaks in June.

Pakistan’s Planning Minister Asad Umar announced in a briefing that “the Covid-19 pandemic had greatly been controlled due to the effective strategy of government institutions.”

What's opening when: Movie theaters, restaurants and businesses in the hospitality industry can open Monday. Tourism activities can restart tomorrow, Umar said.

All outdoor and indoor non-contact activities will also be allowed from Monday.

Umar said all the educational institutions in the country will be opened September 15 pending a final review by the Ministry of Education on September 7.

Marriage halls will be allowed to function from September 15, and train and airline restrictions will be lifted in October, Umar said.

3:00 a.m. ET, August 7, 2020

The novel coronavirus may suppress key immune cells, study finds

From CNN's Maggie Fox

Covid-19 appears to suppress the function of important immune system cells, preventing the body from fighting off the infection, researchers in Hong Kong reported Thursday. 

The team at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) said their findings, published in the peer-reviewed journal Immunity, indicate that boosting immune response with certain drugs might help patients recover better. It’s an approach already being tested by several groups. 

The researchers looked at the blood of 41 patients treated for coronavirus in Hong Kong early in the pandemic, and compared their immune function to that of healthy volunteers.

Immune system cells known as dendritic cells, along with T-cells and natural killer cells in patients with Covid-19 all appeared to be suppressed. All these cells are part of the body’s response to an infection.

“The findings suggested that jump-starting the immune response with early use of drugs with both immune boosting or antiviral activity such as interferon beta-1b could be important in reducing morbidity and mortality of COVID-19,” Yuen Kwok-Yung, who chairs the infectious diseases department at HKU, said in a statement.

One of the drugs tested was interferon beta-1b. It was initially developed as a treatment for multiple sclerosis, but because it targets the body's immune system, it is also being tested in coronavirus patients.