Global report: obey rules to avoid second Covid-19 lockdown, leaders warn

Countries around the world battle to contain rises in numbers of new infections

France’s health minister, Olivier Véran, has warned that the struggle with coronavirus virus will be long, and that a second national lockdown will be avoided only if people stick to physical distancing rules.

His comments came as the US death toll from the virus approached 150,000 and as Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, said the recent improvement in his country could quickly be reversed.

Amid sharp resurgences in a number of European countries, including Belgium, Spain, Luxembourg and Croatia, Véran echoed comments by the World Health Organization on Tuesday that Europe was still in the midst of the initial major wave of the pandemic.

France recorded 15 new deaths in hospitals from Covid-19 in the previous 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths to 30,223 since the start of the pandemic.

“We are not facing a second wave – the epidemic is continuing,” Véran told LCI television. “Some people do not respect the rules. We must not let down our guard. We do not want to resort to another lockdown. We are examining the situation on a case-by-case basis.

“The war is not over … People must understand that we are going to live with this virus for a fairly long time,” he added.

Spain had diagnosed another 1,153 coronavirus infections in the previous 24 hours, the health ministry said on Wednesday, as the country continued to struggle with a rapidly accelerating surge of new cases. The cumulative total rose to 282,641 cases, the ministry said. The figure was up 2,031 on the previous day, and included results from antibody tests on people who may already have recovered.

Countries around the world are attempting to fend off resurgent case numbers with reimposed restrictions, as researchers push ahead with human testing of potential vaccines.

With global cases doubling in the last six weeks, the persistence of the virus has undermined optimism that any return to pre-pandemic normality is anywhere in sight.


A sharp rise this month in the number of infections in Arizona, California, Florida and Texas has overwhelmed hospitals and forced states to U-turn on reopening their economies.

Dramatising the ease with which the virus is able to return, Vietnam – which has boasted of being virus-free for months - was bracing for another wave of infections on Wednesday after state media reported new cases in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and the Central Highlands linked to a recent outbreak in the central city of Danang.

Local leaders in Hanoi, the capital, announced that they were shutting bars and banning large gatherings from midnight on Wednesday. “We have to act now and act fast. All large gatherings will be banned until further notice,” said Nguyen Duc Chung, Hanoi’s chairman.

In Hong Kong, the chief executive, Carrie Lam, said the city was on “the verge of a large-scale community outbreak which may lead to a collapse of our hospital system and cost lives, especially of the elderly”.

A statement on Monday from the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, Beijing’s senior presence in the city, said Hong Kong’s testing capacity could no longer meet demand and “its medical system and quarantine facilities are being overwhelmed”.

Following the latest resurgence, Hong Kong’s government has suggested it could postpone by a year a vote for seats in the city’s legislature scheduled for 6 September, the public broadcaster RTHK reported on Wednesday.

The impact of the continuing pandemic was starkly visible in Mecca as Muslim pilgrims, donning face masks and moving in small groups after days in isolation, began arriving at Islam’s holiest site for a scaled-down Hajj pilgrimage a festival that usually attracts 2.5 million people.

Rather than standing and praying shoulder to shoulder in a sea of people, pilgrims are social distancing, standing apart and moving in small groups of 20 to limit exposure and the potential transmission of the virus.

For the first time in Saudi Arabia’s history, the government barred Muslims from abroad from entering to perform the hajj in order to limit exposure to the coronavirus.

Instead, anywhere between 1,000 to 10,000 people already residing in Saudi Arabia were selected to take part in the hajj. The government has not released a final figure, except to say that two-thirds are foreign residents from among the 160 different nationalities that would have normally been represented. One-third are Saudi security personnel and medical staff.

Echoing Véran and others, Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, said the country’s coronavirus outbreak had stabilised, but warned that the situation remained difficult and could easily deteriorate.

Russia has registered the fourth highest number of infections in the world, and health officials on Wednesday reported a total of 828,990 cases and 13,673 fatalities.

“The number of coronavirus infections in Russia gradually decreased in June and July,” Putin said during a video conference with officials, adding that the number of new cases had halved since the peak in May. Yet Putin cautioned that “the situation remains difficult – it could swing in any direction”.


Peter Beaumont, Kim Willsher and agencies

The GuardianTramp

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