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Coronavirus: What's happening around the world on Wednesday

The U.K. said Wednesday that it will pay some low-income residents to stay home from work and self-isolate if they test positive for coronavirus or live with someone who did, and the EU has said it will aim to inoculate more than 40 per cent of the population in the first stage of vaccination. Read about these and other pandemic-related developments around the world.

U.K. will pay low-income residents to self-isolate because of COVID-19

A postman wearing a face shield delivers mail in Oldham, Greater Manchester area. Oldham is one of the areas where the U.K. government will run a pilot project, paying some people who can't afford to stop working but have tested positive for coronavirus or live with someone who has to self-isolate at home. (Peter Byrne/PA/The Associated Press)

The latest:

  • The U.K. will pay some people to take off work and self-isolate.
  • Trudeau announces $2 billion in funding to help provinces and territories reopen schools safely.
  • U.S. health agency changed guidelines for who should get tested.
  • Russia preparing to approve second COVID-19 vaccine in late September or early October, official says.
  • EU sets target of initial COVID-19 vaccination for at least 40 per cent of its population.
  • India to hold national college tests amid concerns about surging virus infections.
  • Philippines reports highest daily increase in 12 days, passes 200,000 coronavirus cases.
  • Vatican says faithful will be readmitted to Pope Francis's weekly general audiences starting Sept. 2.
  • Kenyan president extends nationwide curfew by 30 days.
  • South Korea orders doctors to stop strike amid coronavirus crisis.

The United Kingdom will pay low-income residents to self-isolate if they have been confirmed or suspected to have coronavirus, as the government steps up measures to keep the virus under control.

The new policy comes after opposition politicians called on the government to introduce the payments amid concerns that some people who cannot afford to take time off work were avoiding complying with the health advice.

The government said individuals who test positive for the virus will receive $226 (130 GBP) for their 10-day period of self-isolation. Other members of their household, who have to self-isolate for 14 days, will be entitled to $316 (182 GBP.)

Researchers work on a vaccine against the novel coronavirus at the University of Copenhagen research lab in Denmark in March. (Thibault Savary/AFP/Getty Images)

The money will be available to people who receive welfare payments known as Universal Credit or Working Tax Credits, and who are unable to work from home. The scheme will be piloted first in the towns of Blackburn and Oldham and the district of Pendle, which had experienced local lockdowns because of their higher rates of the virus.

"The British public have already sacrificed a great deal to help slow the spread of the virus. Self-isolating if you have tested positive for COVID-19, or have come into contact with someone who has, remains vital to keeping on top of local outbreaks," said Matt Hancock, the health minister.

WATCH | The race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine:

A co-chair of Canada's new COVID-19 vaccine task force says it will be critical to have a number of vaccine candidates on hand to halt the spread of the coronavirus, as Canada's chief public health officer warns not to expect any vaccine to be a 'silver bullet.' 8:33

The U.K. has more than 41,000 deaths related to COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University.


What's happening with coronavirus in Canada

As of 7 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada had 126,290 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 112,455 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC's reporting stood at 9,132.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday announced more than $2 billion in funding to help provinces and territories reopen their schools and economies safely.

With less than two weeks to go before schools are set to welcome back students for the fall term, the announcement comes as some provinces are reporting increases in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases.

WATCH | NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh on safe schools plan:

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh calls on the Liberal government give money not just to schools but to child care as well. 1:28

The funding is meant to allow provinces and territories to work with local school boards to implement measures to protect students and staff from COVID-19. The money can be used to help adapt learning spaces, improve air ventilation, increase hand sanitation and hygiene and buy extra personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies.

Trudeau also announced an extra $112 million for First Nations communities to ensure a safe return to school on reserves.

Meanwhile, the National Research Council (NRC) said on Wednesday that it has ended its partnership with CanSino Biologics for a coronavirus vaccine, saying the Chinese company lacks the authority to ship the vaccine at this time.

In May, CanSino had agreed to bring its vaccine candidate to Canada for testing through a partnership with the NRC, but due to the delay the organization "has since moved on to focus our team and facilities on other partners," according to a statement. 

CanSino's vaccine candidate is one of the few being tested in a late-stage study as companies race to develop a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19.

In British Columbia, a lawsuit has been filed in B.C. Supreme Court in a bid to stop the provincial government from reopening kindergarten to Grade 12 classes unless tougher COVID-19 safety measures are imposed.

The action lists alleged "failures" in the back-to-school plan, including the failure to impose mandatory face masks, implement physical distancing, reduce class sizes and provide all students with the option of virtual learning.

WATCH | Doctors answer questions about schools reopening amid COVID-19:

Doctors answer questions about schools reopening during the pandemic including how effective masks are in keeping schools safe from the spread of COVID-19. 6:34

The suit labels the current plan — to allow the full–time return of nearly all of B.C.'s 591,000 elementary and secondary school students on Sept. 10 — "nonsensical," "unconscionable," and one that "not only endangers the lives of students and teachers but also that of the broader community."

The application seeks an immediate injunction to restrain the B.C. ministries of health and education from reopening schools and calls for a judicial review of the government's plan.

Quebec, meanwhile, won't use the COVID Alert smartphone application to notify the public about potential exposure to COVID-19 for now, arguing its own testing and contact-tracing capabilities are sufficient at this stage of the pandemic.

While the province is not closing the door on using an app in the future, Premier François Legault said he would rather use one that was developed in Quebec.

WATCH | Canadians urged to use COVID Alert app:

Canada's Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam says more widespread adoption of the COVID Alert app is one more layer of protection. This comes as Quebec announces it will not sign on to the app for now. 1:03

"We would prefer a Quebec company, but I don't think this is our main argument," Legault said Tuesday afternoon in Saint-Hyacinthe, Que.

He said there is a lack of broad support for such an app in the province, due to privacy concerns.

"Maybe in six months we will come to another decision." 


Here's what's happening around the world

According to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University, the global total of confirmed coronavirus cases is now more than 24 million. More than 822,000 people have died, while 15.6 million have recovered.

On Wednesday, the United States Justice Department ordered four Democratically controlled states to hand over COVID-19 data to help determine whether to initiate investigations into the deaths of thousands of elderly nursing home residents.

Among those states is New York, which carries one of the highest death tolls in nursing homes in the nation.

U.S. health officials have sparked criticism and confusion after posting guidelines on coronavirus testing from the White House task force that run counter to what scientists say is necessary to control the pandemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) previously advised testing for all close contact of people diagnosed with COVID-19, but on Monday, a CDC testing overview page was changed to say that testing is no longer recommended for symptom-less people who were in close contact situations. 

However, later revisions included a caveat that mentioned testing may be recommended for those with health problems that make them more likely to suffer severe illness from an infection, or if their doctor or local state officials advise they get tested.

This is the latest in a series of criticisms facing the federal administration. On Tuesday, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Stephen Hahn apologized for overstating the life-saving benefits of treating COVID-19 patients with convalescent plasma.

WATCH | FDA official made 'egregious' mistake on plasma benefits, says Toronto respirologist:

The way FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn characterized the benefits of convalescent plasma for COVID-19 patients raises concerns about political interference, says Dr. Samir Gupta, an associate professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Toronto. 5:01

Scientists and medical experts have been pushing back against claims about the treatment since U.S. President Donald Trump's announcement over the weekend that the FDA had decided to issue emergency authorization for convalescent plasma, which is taken from patients who have recovered from the coronavirus and is rich in disease-fighting antibodies.

Russia is preparing to approve a second vaccine against COVID-19 in late September or early October, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova said on Wednesday.

Speaking at a televised government meeting, Golikova told President Vladimir Putin that early-stage clinical trials on the vaccine, developed by the Vector virology institute in Siberia, would be completed by the end of September.

"As of today, there have been no complications among those vaccinated in the first and second stages of testing," she said.

WATCH | Safety concerns surround Russia's vaccine:

Russian President Vladimir Putin says a locally developed COVID-19 vaccine has been given regulatory approval after less than two months of testing on humans, but there are concerns safety could have been compromised for speed. 3:14

Earlier this month, Russia became the first country to grant regulatory approval to a COVID-19 vaccine after less than two months of human testing. Western experts have been skeptical about Russia's approval of "Sputnik V," warning against its use until all internationally approved testing and regulatory steps have been taken.

In Italy, a Vatican statement on Wednesday said that the faithful will be readmitted to Pope Francis's weekly general audiences from Sept. 2, as the Holy See slowly lifts restrictions imposed due to the pandemic.

In his video address on Wednesday, the Pope said the pandemic had aggravated social inequalities, with some children seeing their education interrupted and poorer nations lacking the resources to help them deal with the crisis.

Pope Francis waves to worshippers during the weekly Angelus prayer at St. Peter's Square in the Vatican on Aug. 23. In a video address on Wednesday, the Pope said the pandemic had aggravated social inequalities. (Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty Images)

Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab said on Wednesday that Lebanon was at risk of losing control over the coronavirus outbreak after a rise in the number of cases following the explosion in Beirut on Aug. 4.

Cases doubled in the two weeks following the blast as infections spread in hospitals where victims were being treated, medical officials say.

Lebanon registered 557 new COVID-19 infections and one death on Wednesday. It had registered a record 12 deaths the previous day.

The government imposed a partial lockdown but still allows for clearing rubble, making repairs and giving out aid in neighbourhoods damaged by the explosion. 

A picture taken during an organized media tour on Wednesday shows members of the French military clearing the rubble and debris in a joint effort with the Lebanese army at the port of Beirut in the aftermath of a massive explosion earlier this month. (Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images)

Authorities in Germany's capital on Wednesday banned several protests planned for the weekend against coronavirus pandemic measures. The protests have drawn support from the German far right.

Officials said that those protesting in Berlin would likely have breached rules on social distancing designed to stop the spread of the virus. Germany has seen an upswing in infections in recent weeks and the government is considering whether to impose fresh restrictions again.

Authorities in the capital cited a rally against COVID-19 restrictions on Aug. 1, during which participants ignored rules around mask-wearing and physical distancing and other conditions imposed on the protest.

Police officers walk between unmasked protesters sitting on the ground at the end of a protest in Berlin on Aug. 1. Thousands converged in the capital to protest Germany's coronavirus restrictions. (Markus Schreiber/The Associated Press)

Also on Wednesday, Germany's health minister says the country will end mandatory virus tests for travellers returning from high-risk areas and refocus its testing strategy on people with symptoms or possible exposure to COVID-19 patients.

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta on Wednesday extended a nationwide curfew by 30 days in the East African nation's fight against the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Kenyatta said in a televised address he had also extended the closure of bars and nightclubs for 30 days, while he increased the number of people allowed to attend events such as weddings and funerals.

A 61-year-old man has died in the Gaza Strip after contracting the coronavirus, Palestinian authorities said on Wednesday as they clamped down on an outbreak in the enclave.

Workers travel during lockdown through a deserted street in Gaza City on Wednesday amid increasing cases of coronavirus infections in the Palestinian enclave. (Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images)

The man had suffered previous illnesses and had been on a respirator, the health ministry said. It was the first death among the general population since an infected woman died at a quarantine centre in March.

Health officials said nine more cases were discovered on Wednesday. Six of them were in the isolated Maghazi refugee camp, where the territory's first four cases had been confirmed on Monday, prompting Gaza's Hamas authorities to impose a full lockdown.

The three other cases were in northern Gaza Strip, indicating the virus has begun to spread into different areas of the enclave of two million people.

The Health Ministry in the Philippines on Wednesday reported 5,277 additional coronavirus infections, the highest daily increase in 12 days and 99 more deaths.

Filipinos queue to get free COVID-19 swab testing in Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay, metro Manila, on Tuesday. (Eloisa Lopez/Reuters)

In a bulletin, the ministry said total confirmed cases had risen to 202,361, more than 60 per cent of which were reported in the past month, while deaths had increased to 3,137. The Philippines has the largest number of COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia.

President Rodrigo Duterte has faced growing criticisms over the alarming spread of infections. Vice-President Leni Robredo said in televised remarks on Monday: "It's as if no one is at the helm, no direction, no clear horizon as to when and how this pandemic will be addressed."

Health officials in South Korea ordered thousands of striking doctors to return to work as the country counted its 13th straight day of triple-digit jumps in coronavirus cases.

Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said those who refuse could have their licences suspended or revoked, or even face a prison term of up to three years.

A doctor holds a sign criticizing government medical policy at Seoul National University Hospital on Wednesday. Tens of thousands of doctors launched a full-scale strike across South Korea on Wednesday as the country grapples with a surge in coronavirus cases. (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

Doctors in the greater Seoul area joined physicians in other parts of the country in a three-day strike starting Wednesday against government plans to boost the number of medical students.

The government says the increase is critical for dealing with crises like COVID-19 and reducing health-care gaps between the highly developed Seoul area and the rest of the country. Doctors' groups say the country already has enough physicians competing in a cutthroat market.

The walkouts have forced major hospitals in Seoul to reduce working hours and delay some surgeries, according to the Yonhap news agency.

More than two million Indian students will sit for admission tests to medical and engineering schools next week, the government said on Wednesday, despite growing concern that the move could fuel a jump in coronavirus infections.

India has been recording more than 60,000 new infections per day for the last two weeks, reaching a peak of 69,652 cases on Aug. 19. With 3.2 million cases, it ranks after the United States and Brazil, though its 59,449 deaths are far fewer.

A health worker collects a swab sample from a child at a coronavirus testing centre in Siliguri, India, on Wednesday. (Diptendu Dutta/AFP/Getty Images)

Already twice postponed this year, the tests will be spread over several days and held at more centres than usual to ensure there is no crowding.

But many students have to travel long distances, and there was a risk of infections, said the All-India Students' Union, a leftist group that represents university students. It urged students to wear black armbands and join online protests to put pressure on the government to delay the tests until infections fall.

European Union nations and Britain have agreed on a blueprint for a COVID-19 vaccination plan that would inoculate more than 40 per cent of their populations, a step that may set back the vaccine blueprint of the World Health Organization (WHO).

The EU target for early vaccinations is twice as high as the goal set by WHO, which is aiming to buy vaccines initially for 20 per cent of the world's most-vulnerable people through a global procurement scheme.

People stroll past the logo for the start of the 107th edition of the Tour De France cycling race, on the promenade des Anglais in the French Riviera city of Nice on August 26, 2020. - The 2020 edition of the Tour de France kicks off in Nice on August 29 and runs to September 20, postponed from June 27 to July 19 due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images)

The document is not binding on EU states and partners, which could theoretically target an even higher proportion of the population should vaccines become available.

The EU estimates that more than 200 million of the EU's population of 450 million, or at least 44 per cent, would classify as "priority groups," including people with chronic diseases, the elderly and health workers. If it designated vaccinations for that many people in the initial stage, it could effectively reduce the availability for less-developed countries.

With files from The Associated Press and CBC News

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