Global cases dip, Germany plans measures

·4-min read

The World Health Organisation says new coronavirus cases have fallen nine per cent globally in the last week while a Chinese city known for being a manufacturing export hub was partially locked down and as Germany announced new measures for later in the year.

The United Nations health agency said there were 6.5 million cases reported last week with more than 14,000 deaths.

WHO said the number of new cases fell 35 per cent in Europe but increased about 20 per cent in the western Pacific and 5 per cent in Africa.

Deaths rose 44 per cent in the western Pacific and 26 per cent in the Middle East while falling about a quarter in Europe.

The WHO has previously warned that recent surveillance of COVID-19 has been severely compromised by countries reducing their testing, reporting and other coronavirus alert systems.

The agency has said COVID-19 figures are likely being significantly underestimated, which could make it more difficult to spot any worrisome new variants.

In the United Kingdom, the Office for National Statistics reported last week that COVID-19 cases dropped to about 1 in 20 people in England infected, suggesting that the latest wave of the coronavirus may have peaked in the country.

Dr Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, said it was likely that COVID-19 cases and hospitalisations would continue to fall further in the following weeks.

In China, meanwhile, authorities last week shut down part of Wuhan, the city where COVID-19 was first detected in late 2019, after identifying four cases.

The government has suggested its "zero COVID" strategy could last for years, despite the social and economic upheaval the approach has caused.

The Chinese city of Yiwu in Zhejiang province has suspended some public gatherings and dining at restaurants, closed multiple entertainment venues and locked down some areas to cope with COVID-19 flare-ups, the city government said on Wednesday.

In light of the latest COVID-19 infections, city-wide mass testing will be conducted on August 4, Yiwu's health authorities said late on Wednesday.

There were 38 new coronavirus cases in Yiwu since Tuesday, of which nine were symptomatic and 29 were asymptomatic, the city's health authorities said.

Yiwu is a major manufacturing export hub in eastern China and home to 1.9 million people.

The German government on Wednesday presented its plans for new coronavirus measures for the coming autumn and winter as it expects virus cases to go up again during the colder season as people spend more time indoors.

Face masks and presenting proof of a negative coronavirus test will be mandatory from October until early April at hospitals, nursing homes and similar institutions with vulnerable people.

Passengers on planes and making long-distance trips by train and bus also will have to wear masks during that period, as they do now.

However, Germany's 16 states have the authority to adopt their own rules depending on how severely the virus affects their areas.

State governments could decide to require masks on local public transportation, in schools for students in fifth grade and up and at public indoor events.

Community facilities such as schools, prisons or asylum-seeker shelters may implement regular testing again if COVID-19 case numbers rise, Germany's health and justice ministers said in a joint statement.

The government also plans an autumn vaccination campaign.

"Germany should be better prepared for the next coronavirus winter than in previous years," Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said.

Justice Minister Marco Buschmann said a special effort would be made to keep schools open, while states will "only be able to impose a mask requirement at schools if this is necessary in order to be able to continue to provide in-person teaching".

"Children have a right to school education and a school day that is as carefree as possible. School closures must therefore not be allowed," Buschmann said.

The new regulations still need to go to cabinet and parliament for approval but are expected to pass.

The WHO said in its weekly report that two versions of omicron - sub-variants BA.5 and BA.4 - were driving the latest wave of infections across the globe.

It said BA.5 accounted for about 64 per cent to 70 per cent of sequences shared with the world's largest public viral database.

The highest numbers of new cases were reported in Japan, the US, South Korea, Germany and Italy.

The most deaths were reported in the US, Brazil, Italy, Japan and Australia.

with Reuters

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