Global deaths have soared to an average of 5000 a day in July (up from 4600 in June) as the world experiences yet another peak in daily infections amid a pandemic surge.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) announced another record increase in global coronavirus cases, with the total rising by more than 284,000 in 24 hours.
It comes as countries that had been hailed for successfully tackling the coronavirus are smashed by record surges as nations grapple with second – and even third – waves.
While nations like the USA, which had over 69,000 new cases in 24 hours, have come under scrutiny for their handling of the pandemic, even those that were considered models of success are struggling.
As Australia continues to ramp up its response to Victoria’s deadly outbreak, Hong Kong, Japan and Israel are experiencing their highest case numbers.
Hong Kong is facing a ‘third wave’ as it suffered its worst day since the pandemic began – with 123 new cases on Friday – after just weeks ago celebrating some days with zero.
Japan has also recorded its highest daily tally of 981 this week after early boasting it had ended the outbreak in just over a month.
Israel also hit a new daily high, with 1819 cases, and is inching closer to a second full lockdown after earlier claiming it had ‘blocked’ the outbreak of the pandemic.
Australia’s situation is being observed around the world as Victoria on Friday endured its deadliest day, with seven new deaths.
The state now has 3734 active cases, with 270 active Victorian cases linked to aged care homes.
Australia’s national coronavirus death toll has risen to 140.
But it’s a different story in China which continues to enjoy greater freedoms as Beijing achieved two weeks with no community transmissions and the country tallied just 21 new cases on Friday, six of them imported.
Cinemas that had been closed for about six months began reopening this week in major cities throughout the country.
Masks sweep the globe
Compulsory mask wearing has become a common response to resurgences of COVID-19 around the world.
Victoria’s Deputy Commissioner Rick Nugent praised Victorians for embracing the new mask rules which require face coverings when leaving home.
Here are just some of the millions of face masks being made in Victoria.
We've placed an order for over two million reusable masks, and another three million single use masks too.
These masks are helping create jobs, keep businesses running, and support local manufacturing. pic.twitter.com/SravHpNPbx
— Dan Andrews (@DanielAndrewsMP) July 24, 2020
In England, new people entering shops, banks and supermarkets are now required to wear face coverings or face a fine of 100 pounds ($180).
France made mask-wearing mandatory in all indoor public spaces this week after cases surged 66 per cent in the past three weeks and 26 per cent in the last week alone.
In Belgium, where a three-year-old girl has died after testing positive, masks are now mandatory in crowded outdoor public spaces.
Romania set an all-time high for daily new infections on Friday and authorities blamed the surge on a failure to wear masks while in Italy masks must be worn in shops, banks, on public transport and outdoors.
NSW church scare
A NSW woman who visited five churches has tested positive, sparking a massive contact tracing effort.
The Fairfield woman in her 40s attended two funerals, a burial and two church services over a four-day period.
Congregation members are urged to check for symptoms and self-isolate as NSW announced seven new cases on Friday and restrictions on funerals were limited to 100.
New COVID-19 measures also came into effect for hospitality venues including mandatory sign-ins, prepared COVID-safe plans, a cap of 300 people and maximum group bookings of 10.
NSW Health said those who attended the following services should get tested immediately if they develop symptoms.
- St Brendan’s Catholic Church Bankstown for one hour on July 16, from 6.30pm
- Ausia Funeral Services at Fairfield East on July 17, between 1:00pm and 8:00pm
- Funeral service at St Brendan’s Catholic Church, Bankstown for one hour from 10:00am on July 18
- Burial service at St John of God Lawn at Rookwood Cemetery on July 18, between 11.30-1:00pm
- Our Lady of Mt Carmel Catholic Church at Mt Pritchard for one hour from 7.30am on July 19
Aged care COVID crisis
The deaths of Victorians in multiple outbreaks at aged care centres has prompted a call for urgent action to address staff shortages.
The need for a national response to safeguard elder Victorians has been highlighted after eight of the 12 fatalities in the state on Thursday and Friday were aged care residents.
Aged and Community Services Australia chief executive Patricia Sparrow demanded co-ordinated action to help the almost 1.3 million Victorians receiving care.
Ms Sparrow argued the federal government needed to “stop what’s happening” in Victoria because it could easily happen in another part of the country.
Ms Sparrow also said there was growing concern that they were not going to be able to fill all the shifts needed at aged care centres.
“It’s getting more difficult to get staff across the board and that’s why we think we need an overall plan,” she said.
“Bringing staff from interstate, or using the military, or using students who have had additional training, we need to make sure that we’ve got staff.”
Ms Sparrow said staff shortages were happening because workers were required to self-isolate while awaiting test results, and the restriction to working at only one site has also affected rostering.
The measure to restrict staff movement between aged care centres has been estimated to affect about 30 per cent of the workforce.
Victoria on Friday had 3734 active cases, with more than 270 cases linked to outbreaks across aged care facilities in Melbourne.
An outbreak at the St Basil’s Homes for the Aged in Fawkner has seen 73 cases linked to the facility.
Thirty-eight other aged care facilities have at least one staff member who has tested positive.
Australian ministers fly to USA
Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Defence Minister Linda Reynolds will defy the threat of the coronavirus and fly to Washington for talks with Trump administration counterparts.
The annual AUSMIN talks are also expected to address Hong Kong’s new security laws, infrastructure development and critical minerals.
China is expected to dominate discussions in next week’s face-to-face discussions with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US Defence Secretary Mark Esper.
The downsized Australian delegation of just nine people will take precautions to limit the chance of exposure to COVID-19.
They will fly on an Australian government jet, wear personal protective equipment, practice social distancing and undergo 14 days of quarantine when they return to Australia.
Ms Payne will have dinner with Mr Pompeo at the State Department on Monday evening and the quartet will meet on Tuesday for AUSMIN.
It will be Ms Payne’s first face-to-face international engagement since her last trip to Washington DC in March.
The Trump administration asked for Ms Payne and Ms Reynolds to appear in person for the three-day visit rather than conduct AUSMIN via video conference.
AAP understands the complex set of challenges facing both Australia and the US, including strategic tensions with China, elevated the need for face-to-face meetings.