LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s chief medical officer lowered its COVID-19 alert level on Thursday, citing a gradual drop in pressure on healthcare.
“Following the advice of the Joint Biosecurity Center and based on the latest data, the four British Chief Medical Officers and the UK NHS National Medical Director agree that the UK’s level of alertness should move from level 5 to level 4 in all four countries,” the UK health ministry said in a statement.
Public health services in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland operate separately in most cases.
“Health services in four countries remain under significant stress with high patient numbers in hospitals, but thanks to community efforts we are now seeing numbers continue to decline,” added the medic.
Reporting by Andy Bruce, editing by David Milliken
BRASILIA, February 24 (Reuters) – Brazil has 66,588 new cases of the new coronavirus reported in the past 24 hours, and 1,428 deaths from COVID-19, the highest daily toll since January 7, the Health Ministry said on Wednesday.
The South American country has now recorded 10,324,463 cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 249,957, according to ministry data, in the third worst outbreak in the world outside the United States and India and the second deadliest.
Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Edited by Leslie Adler
CANBERRA (Reuters) – Australia said on Thursday it had been more than 48 hours since detecting a locally acquired COVID-19 case, when the state of Victoria ended a lockdown that allowed thousands of tennis fans to return to Melbourne Park during Australia’s final days. Open.
Jack Barber, a 25-year-old student, was among the 7,477 spectators at the stadium that saw Japanese Naomi Osaka beat Serena Williams of the United States to qualify for the women’s final.
“Yes, that’s wonderful. I’m not sure if they will hold such an event. It’s great to be here. I actually like the lower group, “said Barber, with the Rod Laver Arena being limited by social distancing to half its capacity.
“It’s great to be able to walk around and go anywhere you want.”
Victoria lifted a five-day lockdown late Wednesday, having ordered one after a spate of cases mostly related to workers at quarantine hotels for people arriving from abroad.
Authorities said the only case of COVID-19 detected across the country in the past 24 hours involved someone who had been in hotel quarantine after arriving from abroad.
Australia’s Health Minister, Greg Hunt, announced the results but said the worldwide toll illustrated the need for a “large-scale national vaccination program”.
The Australian inoculation program will start on Monday, starting with hotel quarantine workers.
“We believe that vaccinating quarantine and border officers will substantially protect them from transmission, we hope, but certainly from contracting symptomatic COVID,” Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy told reporters in Canberra.
“That is our single highest priority in the first few weeks.”
Australia has largely avoided the high number of COVID-19 cases and deaths seen in other developed countries thanks to border closures and effective contact tracing systems. It has reported just under 29,000 cases and 909 deaths.
Reporting by Colin Packham; Edited by Simon Cameron-Moore
ZURICH (Reuters) – Switzerland plans to make the first “precautionary step” to end its coronavirus lockdown next month, the government said on Wednesday, in contrast to neighbors who cling to many restrictions.
In the first step, shops, museums and libraries will reopen from March 1. Zoos, parks and sports facilities will also reopen, with a final decision due on February 24.
Ministers have been caught between health experts supporting tougher limits and struggling businesses calling for a reopening, but a reduction in the number of infections has allowed the government to change course.
“The efforts in the last few months have paid off, the population is very disciplined,” said Health Minister Alain Berset.
“New infections have halved in a month, so the situation isn’t too bad. We all want to do more activities, like sports. “
With an early reopening, private events with up to 15 people will also be allowed, the government said, up from the current limit of five.
Switzerland’s reopening stands in stark contrast to neighboring Austria who will decide on March 1 on a potential easing of the pandemic’s curbs around Easter, at the earliest.
“We took a risk, but we think it is acceptable as long as everyone plays together,” Berset said at a news conference in Bern.
Additional easing from April 1 could occur if infections remain low, he added.
Measures to cushion the economic impact of the pandemic will push Switzerland into a deficit of 15.8 billion Swiss francs ($ 17.59 billion) for 2020, mainly due to higher spending and lower tax revenues.
Still, the government says it will increase its spending on dealing with the pandemic, which has claimed 9,128 lives so far.
They have decided to expand the support package for large companies affected by the crisis, increasing the compensation scheme to 10 billion francs, from 5 billion francs previously.
($ 1 = 0.8981 Swiss francs)
Reporting by John Revill and John Miller, editing by Mihcael Shields
CANBERRA (Reuters) – Australia has less than 50 active cases of COVID-19, official data released on Tuesday showed, the lowest number in nearly two months, although authorities warned against complacency.
A patient with COVID-19 in the state of Victoria has been transferred to an intensive care unit, the first case in more than two weeks, while authorities are still investigating the case of a worker at a quarantine hotel for returning travelers.
Victorian state Prime Minister Dan Andrews said the unnamed person who was transferred to intensive care caught the virus overseas and recently returned to Australia.
Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, which has now passed 23 days without detecting a local case of COVID-19, also warned of a drop in testing rates among communities.
“A high level of testing is essential to give us the best opportunity to find new cases and prevent a new chain of transmission from becoming established,” the state government said in an emailed statement.
Australia has escaped a large number of casualties from the new coronavirus, with more than 28,800 infections and 909 deaths, aided by strict lockdown measures and social distancing rules.
In 46 cases, the number of people currently diagnosed with the virus is at its lowest level since December 15.
Vaccination for COVID-19 is expected to start later this month.
Reporting by Colin Packham; editing by Richard Pullin