October 22 coronavirus news

By Joshua Berlinger, Adam Renton, Tara John and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, October 23, 2020
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8:47 a.m. ET, October 22, 2020

American jobless claims fall below 800,000 for first time since mid-March

From CNN's Anneken Tappe

Claims for unemployment benefits inched lower last week, the Department of Labor said Thursday. Still millions of Americans continue to rely on government aid to make ends meet.

Last week, 787,000 workers claimed first-time benefits on a seasonally adjusted basis. That's lower from the prior week.

It was the first time jobless claims fell below 800,000 since mid-March.

But not everyone is eligible for regular state benefits. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which Congress created as part of the CARES Act in the spring, provides benefits for the self-employed and gig workers. Last week, 345,440 people applied for PUA.

Adding these first-time claims together, initial applications for benefits stood at 1.1 million last week without seasonal adjustments.

Continued jobless claims, which count people who have applied for benefits for at least two weeks in a row, stood at 8.4 million, about 1 million lower than the prior week.

8:48 a.m. ET, October 22, 2020

Contact tracing in England reaches record low, as UK government announces more economic aid

From CNN's Amy Cassidy and Chris Liakos

People walk by The Edinburgh Woollen Mill shop in Oxford, England, on October 19.
People walk by The Edinburgh Woollen Mill shop in Oxford, England, on October 19. Steve Parsons/PA/Getty Images

England’s beleaguered test and trace system reached the lowest percentage of people who had come into contact with a Covid-19 infectious person, according to the latest weekly figures. 

Just 59.6% -- a record low -- of close contacts were told to self-isolate in the week of October 8 to 14, compared with 63% the week before.

The figure has been declining since the start of September, raising further questions about the effectiveness of UK's contact tracing apparatus -- an important tool to help control the outbreak. At the same time, positive cases have been rising steeply since the start of August, with an increase of 12% compared with the previous week. 

During this week, 101,494 people tested positive for coronavirus in England. Turnaround times for receiving test results have also declined. In the week up to 14 October, just 15.1% of test results were received within 24 hours compared to 32.8% the previous week. 

The weekly report said there has been a downward trend in the percentage of in-person test results received within 24 hours since the end of June when 94.3% were received within this time frame.

Economic aid: This comes as the UK government announced plans on Thursday to further boost support for businesses by expanding its Jobs Support Scheme due to come into effect on November 1, when the current furlough scheme runs out.

UK finance minister Rishi Sunak said he would be increasing support through the existing Job Support and self-employed schemes, and expanding business grants of up to £2,100 ($2,749) per month to support companies in high-alert level areas.

Sunak said that a significant fall in consumer demand is causing a profound economic harm to the hospitality industry and that it is clear that other open but struggling businesses require further support.

As part of the new economic measures, the UK government will increase its contribution to wage costs to help businesses keep staff on, while the employer contribution will drop to 5%.

Grants for the self-employed income support will also double from 20% to 40%.

7:31 a.m. ET, October 22, 2020

It's 12:30 p.m. in London and 7:30 a.m in New York. Here's what's happening in Europe

Europe's second wave has seen some of its biggest countries report record rises in infections. A trend has also emerged that more older people are becoming infected, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). Here's the latest:

Spain: The country topped 1 million cases on Wednesday after 16,973 new cases and 156 deaths were added to the tally for Tuesday.

Ireland: The nation went into Europe's strictest coronavirus lockdown on Thursday for six weeks to deal with the outbreak. It recorded an increase of nearly 2,000 new cases last week over the week before, prompting the government to impose the stringent measures.

Germany: The country reported a record 11,287 new cases on Thursday, the highest rise since the start of the pandemic.

Belgium: Deputy Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès was admitted into intensive care during treatment for Covid-19. Her spokesperson told CNN that she is conscious, stable and able to communicate with her team. "Her condition is not alarming,” the spokesperson added.

According to CNN analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University and the World Health Organization, Belgium and the Czech Republic are seeing the highest number of new coronavirus cases worldwide when measured against their populations.

Czech Republic: The European Union is sending 30 ventilators to the Czech Republic as the country deals with record numbers of coronavirus cases, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said.

The Czech Republic registered 14,968 new coronavirus cases -- a new daily record -- according to new data from the Ministry of Health released Thursday.

UK: It recorded 26,688 new infections on Wednesday -- the highest daily increase in cases since the pandemic began. Authorities also reported 191 new Covid-19 fatalities 

Italy: Italy recorded 127 coronavirus deaths on Tuesday, marking the first time since May the country's daily death toll has reached triple digits. Almost a third of cases reported on Wednesday were from the northern Lombardy region, the epicenter of Italy's outbreak in the spring.

Poland: Poland reported 12,107 new Covid-19 cases on Thursday, hitting a record high for the second day in a row. It also registered a record 168 deaths related to Covid-19, four times larger than the largest daily increase during the first wave in spring. It recorded a further 15,199 new cases on Wednesday.

Russia: Health Minister Mikhail Murashko is self-isolating after one of his family members tested positive for the virus.

Read more:

7:52 a.m. ET, October 22, 2020

UK lawmaker quits over free school meals, as soccer star says he'll keep fighting for "vulnerable children"

From CNN's Simon Cullen and Ben Church

England and Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford speaks at a press conference in Surrey, England, on October 13.
England and Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford speaks at a press conference in Surrey, England, on October 13. Eddie Keogh for The FA/Shutterstock

A lawmaker from the UK's governing Conservative Party has quit her government position after siding with the opposition to support free meals for school children in low-income homes during the pandemic.

It comes after Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford called for the government to extend a scheme to provide 1.5 million children with food vouchers during holidays until Easter 2021. But the motion, called for by the opposition Labour Party, was voted down on Wednesday -- 261 votes to 322.

Caroline Ansell, who was Parliamentary Private Secretary at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said in a statement announcing her resignation from the role that the government should be doing all it can to help those struggling with the impact of Covid-19 pandemic.

“I do not consider this extension could be in any way a long-term solution to this need, which is complex. There are better ways to help children, including linking meals to activities so they can also benefit from extra-curricular learning and experience," the statement read.

“However, as we are still very much living in the shadow of the pandemic, vouchers are a lever -- not perfect, not sustainable -- but one which I thought could be used to reach families in Eastbourne and across the country in the immediate time ahead. I could not in all conscience ignore that belief.”

Ansell was one of five Conservative Party lawmakers who voted with Labour.

Fight continues: Footballer Rashford, who was recently awarded an MBE for his work tackling food poverty, promised to keep representing "vulnerable children" and urged politicians to unite behind the effort.

"Put aside all the noise, the digs, the party politics, and let's focus on the reality. A significant number of children are going to bed tonight not only hungry but feeling like they do not matter because of comments that have been made today," he wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.

We must stop stigmatising, judging and pointing fingers. Our views are being clouded by political affiliation. This is not politics, this is humanity."

Read the full story here:

6:42 a.m. ET, October 22, 2020

Poland's daily death count is now four times higher than during its first virus wave

From CNN’s Martin Goillandeau in London

Poland reported 12,107 new Covid-19 cases on Thursday, hitting a record high for the second day in a row, according to a series of tweets by the country’s health ministry. 

The ministry added that Poland also registered a record 168 new deaths related to Covid-19 in the past 24 hours, bringing the total of fatalities to 4,019. 

That daily death count is more than four times the largest daily increase recorded by the country’s authorities during spring's first wave of Covid-19. On April 24, Poland recorded 40 deaths due to Covid-19, according to data from the health ministry. 

The country has seen an exponential rise in cases over the past couple of weeks, reporting on Wednesday more than 10,000 cases for the first time since the pandemic started. The total of confirmed cases has now reached 214,686.

7:42 a.m. ET, October 22, 2020

Russian health minister self-isolates after family member tests positive for coronavirus

From CNN’s Mary Ilyushina in Moscow

Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko is seen before a meeting in Moscow on February 14.
Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko is seen before a meeting in Moscow on February 14. Yekaterina Shtukina/Pool/TASS/Getty Images

Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko is self-isolating after one of his family members tested positive for the virus, his aide told state-run news agency RIA Novosti.

“He will be working remotely for the time being,” Murashko’s aide Alexey Kuznetsov said. "The minister is feeling well, the decision to self-isolate was made in order to protect the health of the ministry's employees."

Several high-ranking Russian officials previously either had coronavirus or had to isolate due to possible exposure to it.

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin spent several weeks in a hospital after testing positive for coronavirus in late April. About a month later, a spokesperson for President Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Peskov, was also hospitalized with coronavirus and pneumonia. 

Russia has the fourth highest number of confirmed cases in the world since the outbreak began with more than 1.4 million reported infections, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

6:32 a.m. ET, October 22, 2020

Faulty US Covid-19 response meant 130,000 to 210,000 avoidable deaths, report finds

From CNN’s Maggie Fox

President Donald Trump walks to board Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on October 20.
President Donald Trump walks to board Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on October 20. Saul Leob/AFP/Getty Images

The Trump Administration’s faltering response to the coronavirus pandemic has led to anywhere between 130,000 and 210,000 deaths in the United States that could have been prevented, according to a report released Thursday by a team of disaster preparedness experts.

Insufficient testing, a lack of national mask mandates or guidance, a delayed overall response and outright mocking of basic public health practices by the administration has put the US at the top of the global coronavirus death toll, the report from Columbia University Earth Institute’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness finds

“We estimate that at least 130,000 deaths and perhaps as many as 210,000 could have been avoided with earlier policy interventions and more robust federal coordination and leadership,” the report reads.

“Even with the dramatic recent appearance of new COVID-19 waves globally, the abject failures of U.S. government policies and crisis messaging persist. U.S. fatalities have remained disproportionately high throughout the pandemic when compared to even other high-mortality countries,” it adds.

“The inability of the U.S. to mitigate the pandemic is especially stark when contrasted with the response of high income nations, such as South Korea, Japan, Australia, Germany, France, and Canada, as well as low- and middle-income countries as varied as Thailand, Pakistan, Honduras, and Malaysia. All of these nations have had greater success in protecting their populations from the impact of the coronavirus.”

According to Johns Hopkins University, the US has tallied more than 8.3 million coronavirus cases and more than 222,000 deaths.

“The data establishes that a significant number of lives could have been saved if the Trump administration acted on the advice from the scientific and public health community,” said Dr. Irwin Redlener, founding director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia. “As the country faces a second wave of this virus, we need to hold leadership accountable. The magnitude of loss, caused by a disorganized response, will have devastating and long-lasting consequences for millions of American families.”

When measured by deaths per 100,000 population, the report calculates that the US mortality rate is 50 times higher than Japan’s, and more than twice as high as Canada’s. “Although both the U.S. and South Korea confirmed their first case of coronavirus on January 20, South Korea was able to institute an aggressive diagnostic testing strategy and isolate infected patients, leading to a proportional mortality rate today that is 78 times smaller than that of the United States,” the report reads.

“From the moment the pandemic was first identified, President Trump and his team have downplayed the crisis and ignored basic and widely known public health guidelines to curb the spread of COVID-19,” said Jeffrey Sachs, a professor of health policy and management at Columbia. “To stop the ongoing epidemic in the U.S., it is urgent to examine the available data, identify the failures, call out the Administration’s relentless misinformation, and hold the Trump Administration accountable for its failure to slow the virus’s spread and the more than 200,000 lives that have been unnecessarily lost.”

The research team compared the US response to the policies in other countries. If the US had followed the policies and protocols of Australia, as few as 11,699 people may have died, the report estimates.

Following Japan’s policies would have led to as few as 4,315 deaths in the US, the Columbia team calculated. Even France did better and had the US followed France’s lead, 162,240 Americans would have died -- around 60,000 fewer than the current total.

6:10 a.m. ET, October 22, 2020

India slowly opens up as it lifts suspension on work, student, and medical visas

From CNN’s Manveena Suri in New Delhi 

The Indian government has lifted a months-long suspension on issuing work, student and medical visas. Under the relaxation, all existing visas, except for electronic, tourist and medical visas, will be restored with immediate effect.

For those with expired visas, new ones in the appropriate categories can be obtained from Indian embassies and high commissions.

Foreign nationals intending to visit India for medical treatment can apply for a medical visa, including for their medical attendants. 

“In view of the situation arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of India had taken a series of steps to curtail the inward and outward movement of international passengers since February, 2020… Therefore, this decision will enable foreign nationals to come to India for various purposes such as business, conferences, employment, studies, research, medical purposes etc,” read a press release issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs on Thursday.

International flights remain suspended to and from India except for those operating as part of the country’s Vande Bharat repatriation program and flights that have been authorized by the country’s civil aviation ministry to operate within a travel bubble. 

In recent months, India has established travel corridors with several countries. Many of these are due to be extended in the coming days for the winter season, including the United Kingdom and Germany.

A new travel bubble agreement has also been set up with Bangladesh to resume flights for the first time between the neighboring countries from October 28. 

5:29 a.m. ET, October 22, 2020

Princess Diana interviewer Martin Bashir "seriously unwell" with Covid-19

From CNN's Simon Cullen in London

Martin Bashir arriving for the Pride of Britain Awards held at the The Grosvenor House Hotel, London, on October 28, 2019.
Martin Bashir arriving for the Pride of Britain Awards held at the The Grosvenor House Hotel, London, on October 28, 2019. Ian West/PA Images/Getty Images

BBC journalist Martin Bashir, well known for his interviews with Princess Diana and Michael Jackson, is “seriously unwell with Covid-19 related complications,” the corporation says.

“Everyone at the BBC is wishing him a full recovery. We’d ask that his privacy, and that of his family, is respected at this time,” a BBC spokesperson said in a statement.

The British journalist made headlines in 1995 with his interview with Princess Diana, in which she confirmed Prince Charles’s affair with Camilla.

“Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded,” she told Bashir.

He also famously interviewed Jackson over an extended period, during which the entertainer granted rare access to his private life.

Bashir later moved to the US where he worked for cable news channel MSNBC. However, he resigned over controversial remarks he made about former Alaskan governor Sarah Palin in 2013.

He re-joined the BBC in 2016.