EU warns on virus, Japan cases top 100,000

Francesco Guarascio
·3-min read

EU officials have warned European countries to be ready for wider coronavirus restrictions as infections surge across the continent while cases also soar across the US and numbers exceed 100,000 in Japan.

Europe and the United States have emerged as the current danger zones for COVID-19, which was first identified in China in December, in a global crisis in which more than 44.94 million people have been infected and 1,178,943 have died.

"Given the very dynamic situation in all of Europe, we need to equally reduce contact in almost all European countries," German Health Minister Jens Spahn told journalists after a video conference of EU health ministers that he chaired.

EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides echoed the call.

"We need to pull through this, where needed, with restrictions on everyday life to break the chain of transmission," she told the video conference.

France and Germany announced new lockdowns this week as infections on the continent passed the 10-million milestone and hospitals and intensive care units filled up again.

Bars, restaurants, sports and cultural events have been restricted or closed in several other European countries.

Belgium, one of Europe's worst-affected countries, recorded an average of 15,316 new infections per day in mid-October, health officials said.

Austria recorded its highest daily number of infections to date.

Russia has had coronavirus cases swell in recent weeks and reported 18,283 new infections on Friday, the highest tally recorded since the pandemic began, and 355 deaths.

Poland reported a fourth consecutive daily record for new cases.

Britain resisted the idea of a new country-wide lockdown, even as a survey showed soaring COVID-19 infections and Prime Minister Boris Johnson slumped in the polls, testing his resolve to use mainly local measures to tackle the pandemic.

A record surge of infections in the United States is pushing hospitals to the brink of capacity and killing up to 1000 people a day.

The US broke its single-day record for new coronavirus infections on Thursday, reporting at least 91,248 new cases, as 21 states reported their highest daily number of hospitalised patients since the pandemic started, according to a Reuters tally of publicly reported data.

"We're going in the wrong direction," said Dr Anthony Fauci, a leading White House task force member and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Japan's coronavirus cases topped 100,000 on Friday, nine months after the first case was found in mid-January, the health ministry said.

The country confirmed 808 new cases on Thursday, bringing the cumulative COVID-19 cases to 100,334, including 712 people who were on a cruise ship that was docked off a Japanese port earlier this year.

About one-third of the cases come from Tokyo, where 221 cases were confirmed on Thursday, bringing the prefectural total to 30,677, including 453 deaths.

Japan has recorded more than 1700 deaths.

Experts say Japan has so far managed to avoid "explosive" infections as in Europe and the US without enforcing lockdowns, most likely thanks to the common use of face masks and disinfectant as well as other common preventive measures including physical distancing.

Japan had a country-wide state of emergency in April and May, and experienced a less serious second wave in August, but has since been recording a slight uptrend in new cases in northern prefectures, setting off concerns of a surge in the winter.

Experts have urged extra caution at dining and drinking parties and workplaces.

According to health ministry data, nearly half of the new patients were in their 20s and 30s.

India reported 48,648 new coronavirus cases on Friday, continuing a month-long slowing trend in infections even as the country adds to its 8 million cases.

India's health ministry also reported 563 more fatalities in the past 24 hours, raising the confirmed death toll to 121,090.