August 12 coronavirus news

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5:56 a.m. ET, August 12, 2020

Belgium makes face masks compulsory in Brussels region 

From CNN's Barbara Wojazer

People walk in Brussels, Belgium, on August 4.
People walk in Brussels, Belgium, on August 4. Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Face masks have been made compulsory in Belgium's Brussels region, according to local authorities. The new rule came into effect Wednesday.

The rule applies to anyone aged 12 years or older, "in public spaces, as well as on private premises accessible to the public."

The decision comes as cases in the region crossed the threshold of 50 daily cases per 100,000 people, the local government said.

Weekly infections in Belgium rose at the end of July and officials in countries across Europe are scrambling to prevent a second wave of the virus.

Belgium has 75,008 cases of coronavirus according to Johns Hopkins University.

5:30 a.m. ET, August 12, 2020

The highs and lows of being pregnant during the pandemic

From CNN's Katie Hawkins-Gaar

In early February, my partner and I discovered that I was pregnant.

Looking back, that feels like one of the last big milestones of the Before Times — a wonderfully blissful and uncomplicated period. I'd skimmed a few headlines about a scary-sounding disease called Covid-19 but didn't worry too much about it.

The virus seemed so far away on the other side of the globe. My biggest concern was adjusting to the idea of carrying a child.

Our first ultrasound was scheduled for March 3. At eight weeks, our baby didn't yet look like a baby. According to the pregnancy website we consulted each week, she was only as big as a raspberry.

Still, she had a heartbeat -- and when we heard it, my partner, Billy, excitedly grabbed my hand. We laughed in surprise and flashed giant smiles at the ultrasound technician, who grinned back at us.

That was our last prenatal appointment of the Before Times.

Read more:

5:16 a.m. ET, August 12, 2020

Russia’s coronavirus count passes 900,000

From CNN’s Zahra Ullah and Darya Tarasova in Moscow 

Russia recorded 5,102 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of cases to 902,701.

Russia has the fourth highest number of Covid-19 cases in the world, after the US, Brazil and India.  

The country also recorded 129 additional coronavirus deaths on Tuesday, pushing the total death toll to 15,260.

The Russia government also announced the approval of what they say is the world’s first Covid-19 vaccine on Tuesday.

Critics say the vaccine -- named “Sputnik V” by the Russians -- is not supported by any published scientific data, and its approval took place before crucial Phase III trials had even begun.

Read more on Russia's vaccine here.

4:30 a.m. ET, August 12, 2020

It's just past 9:30 a.m. in London and 8:30 p.m. in New Zealand. Here's the latest on the pandemic

The novel coronavirus has infected nearly 20.3 million people worldwide and killed at least 741,000, according to Johns Hopkins University. Here're the latest headlines:

  • UK officially in recession: The British economy shrank by 20.4% in the second quarter of 2020, the worst quarterly slump on record. That pushed the country into the deepest recession of any major global economy.
  • Germany sees new spike: Daily new infections in Germany soared above 1,000 again on Tuesday, after several days with lower numbers. The country has been dealing with a rise in case numbers for several weeks. 
  • Vaccine "not a race to be first": US health chief Alex Azar said America is not in a coronavirus vaccine race with Russia, responding to Moscow's approval of what it claims to be the "world's first" Covid-19 vaccine.
  • Russia prepares for vaccination drive: The head of the group funding Russia's Covid-19 vaccine research, said the country will begin mass vaccinations of its citizens in October, despite questions about the drug's safety and efficacy.
  • New Zealand election date in doubt: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a delay in the dissolution of Parliament after the country's 102-day streak of no new local cases ended. That's raised uncertainty over the date of the national election, originally scheduled for September 19.
3:45 a.m. ET, August 12, 2020

UK economy enters recession after plunging more than 20% in worst quarterly slump on record

From CNN’s Chris Liakos

A woman walks past a vacant retail unit on Oxford Street in London, England, on July 22.
A woman walks past a vacant retail unit on Oxford Street in London, England, on July 22. David Cliff/NurPhoto via AP

The UK economy shrank 20.4% in the second quarter of 2020, capturing the direct effects of the coronavirus pandemic and the government measures taken to reduce transmission of the virus, according to the Office for National Statistics.

This is the worst quarterly slump since such records began in 1955. It follows a 2.2% contraction in the first quarter, meaning the UK economy is now officially in recession.

Output of services, production and construction -- industries most exposed to government restrictions -- saw record drops from April to June. But as coronavirus restrictions eased in June, the UK economy rebounded 8.7%.

"The economy began to bounce back in June with shops reopening, factories beginning to ramp up production and housebuilding continuing to recover. Despite this, GDP in June still remains a sixth below its level in February, before the virus struck," said Deputy National Statistician and Director General for Economic Statistics Jonathan Athow.
"Overall, productivity saw its largest fall in the second quarter since the three-day week," he said, referring to a 1973-74 measure. "Hospitality was worst hit, with productivity in that industry falling by three quarters in recent months."

Deepest recession: This is the worst quarterly drop for the second quarter of 2020 among the G7 economies.

UK Finance Minister Rishi Sunak said: “I’ve said before that hard times were ahead, and today’s figures confirm that hard times are here. Hundreds of thousands of people have already lost their jobs, and sadly in the coming months many more will. But while there are difficult choices to be made ahead, we will get through this, and I can assure people that nobody will be left without hope or opportunity.”

6:40 a.m. ET, August 12, 2020

Germany sees new spike in coronavirus infections

From CNN's Fred Pleitgen in Berlin 

A traveler has a coronavirus test performed at the airport by an employee of the German Red Cross in Hamburg, Germany, on August 8.
A traveler has a coronavirus test performed at the airport by an employee of the German Red Cross in Hamburg, Germany, on August 8. Daniel Bockwoldt/picture alliance via Getty Images

Germany’s daily new coronavirus infections soared above 1,000 again on Tuesday, after several days with lower numbers, according to data from the country’s center for disease prevention, the Robert Koch Institute.

The institute recorded 1,226 new cases over the past day, up from 966 the day before. 

Germany has been dealing with a rise in infection numbers for several weeks. The government is urging citizens to strictly adhere to social distancing rules, mask wearing and hand sanitizing. It has also rolled out free tests for anyone entering the country.

3:07 a.m. ET, August 12, 2020

US health chief: If Covid-19 had emerged in Taiwan, it "would have gone very differently"

From CNN’s Jen Christensen

If Covid-19 had first emerged in Taiwan, the United States or any other open society, it “would have gone very differently,” US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a teleconference from Taipei on Wednesday.

“It would have been reported to public health authorities who would have shared that information with the public and with medical professionals, even more important, it would have been reported in a timely, accurate and transparent manner, under the International Health Regulations, under which Taiwan has been a model of compliance on information sharing,” Azar said.

Azar met with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, the Health and Welfare Minister Chen Shih-chung and members of the Taiwan CDC to discuss Covid-19 during his three-day trip to the self-ruled island, the highest-level visit by a US cabinet official in four decades.

“My visit to Taiwan is a recognition of its success in combating Covid-19, and a testament to our shared beliefs that open democratic societies are best equipped to combat infectious disease threats like Covid-19,” Azar said. 

Criticizing China: In contrast to his praise for Taiwan, Azar was highly critical of the way China handled the initial outbreak.

“China could have, and should have, disclosed more information more transparently and more cooperatively regarding Covid-19,” Azar said. “They should have disclosed ... the rapid human to human transmission of the disease that they knew about, they should have disclosed the asymptomatic carriage and transmission of the disease.”

Azar also accused China of a month-and-a-half delay in allowing outside experts into the country to learn more about the disease, and pressuring the World Health Organization to stop other countries from establishing border controls and travel restrictions.

“Even as China imposed internal travel restrictions, [it still allowed] their people to travel throughout the world including to Europe, which then allows … travelers in Europe to spread disease across the United States,” Azar said.

2:34 a.m. ET, August 12, 2020

Brazilian state to sign agreement with Russia for coronavirus vaccine

From CNN's Marcia Reverdosa in Sao Paulo

Brazil’s Paraná state is scheduled to sign an agreement with Russia on Wednesday for the research, development and testing of its coronavirus vaccine, according to a statement from the Russian Embassy.

Under the agreement, some vulnerable groups in Brazil will be first to receive vaccination.

"Initially, health professionals and teachers, i.e. the groups most vulnerable to contamination, will receive vaccines. The government has adopted a digital scheme to control and monitor the effects of vaccination on these groups," the statement said.

The document will be signed by Kirill Dmitriev, director of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which is funding Russia's vaccine research, and Paraná State Gov. Ratinho Junior. The meeting will happen through a video conference meeting on Wednesday afternoon.

"Brazil is aware of all the vaccine studies under development and guarantees that, as soon as it has access to a vaccine that is proven to be effective against Covid-19, Brazilians will have access to it," the Brazil Health Ministry told CNN on Wednesday. 

1:58 a.m. ET, August 12, 2020

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte says he would volunteer for trials of Russia's Covid-19 vaccine  

From CNN’s Alex Stambaugh

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte meets members of the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases in Manila, Philippines on July 30.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte meets members of the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases in Manila, Philippines on July 30. Robinson Ninal Jr./Malacanang Presidential Photographers Division via AP

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he has confidence in the Russian coronavirus vaccine and is willing to volunteer in trials.  

“I will volunteer to receive it in public. I will be the first to be experimented on,” Duterte said during his address to the nation late Monday broadcast by state-run RTVM.  

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday announced the approval of a coronavirus vaccine for use, claiming it as a "world first.” 

Several US health leaders and vaccine experts have expressed skepticism about whether the vaccine has been proven to be safe and effective. No data from human trials of the vaccine has been released, and it has not yet gone through large Phase 3 trials. 

"I believe that the vaccine that (Russia has) produced is really good for humanity,” Duterte said, “By December... we will hopefully have a Covid-free December." 

Duterte went on to say that his country would get priority access to the vaccine because of its relationship with Russia.