International

Coronavirus digest: Sewage can reveal Covid-19 outbreaks – Study

A UK study shows that traces of COVID-19 can be found in waste water. This can help health officials indicate if a local community or institution is experiencing a spike in cases.

A project by the UK government revealed that traces of COVID-19 can be found in sewage. This can indicate if a local community or institution is experiencing a spike in cases, giving health officials early signs of a local outbreak. 

The project, which was launched in June, proved that fragments of genetic material from the virus can be detected in waste water.

“This is a significant step forward in giving us a clearer idea of infection rates both nationally and locally, particularly in areas where there may be large numbers of people who aren’t showing any symptoms and therefore aren’t seeking tests,” British Environment Secretary George Eustice said.

The study has been extended to 90 waste water sites in England, and the government aims to expand it further.

Europe

Germany has reported more than 11,200 cases for a second day in a row. The number of coronavirus infections has been steadily increasing in the country, with the daily tally crossing the 10,000 mark on Thursday for the first time since the pandemic began.

Data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases on Friday showed there were 49 new deaths from the coronavirus, bringing the country’s toll to 9,954. 

An extended nighttime curfew will come into force across most of France at the stroke of midnight on Saturday as the country grapples with a rise in infections. It will affect roughly two in three citizens.

Prime Minister Jean Castex announced the new measures on Thursday, saying that the situation continued to “deteriorate.” France is reporting the highest seven-day average of new cases in Europe with 25,480 infections per day.

The 9 p.m. – 6 a.m. curfew, which had already been imposed in Paris and its suburbs, will now be extended to 38 other regions, and Polynesia. Some 46 million people will have to stay home overnight unless they have a certain reason for going outdoors, such as walking a dog, traveling to and from work or catching a train or flight. 

The British government will be increasing subsidies for bars, pubs and restaurants, amid pressure to ease the economic impact of the virus on small businesses and workers. 

“There are difficult days and weeks ahead, but we will get through this together. People are not on their own. We have an economic plan that will protect the jobs and livelihoods of the British people wherever they live and whatever their situation,” said the Finance Minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak. 

Asia

India has reported fewer than 60,000 new coronavirus cases for a fifth consecutive day, a significant decline from the daily record of 97,000 infections it posted a month ago.

India has the second-highest caseload in the world behind the United States, but the number of new daily cases has shown a downward trend in October. The Health Ministry says 54,366 news cases were registered on Friday, taking the overall total past 7.7 million.

Experts have warned that the festival season, currently underway in the world’s second-most populous country, could lead to a fresh spike.

Japan’s expert panel to combat the pandemic has proposed extending the New Year’s holidays by about a week until January 11. The panel believes companies extending the holiday would help in reducing the rush among travelers returning to their home towns, said Japan’s Kyodo news agency. 

Oceania

The Australian state of Victoria, which was a COVID-19 hotspot, reported on Friday that active cases had fallen to a four-month low. Only one new infection was recorded in the past 24 hours.

“This is a good number. This is a very clear sign that the strategy is working,” state premier Daniel Andrews said. The state is expected to announce an easing of restrictions and social distancing measures on Sunday. 

Americas

During the final US presidential debate, President Donald Trump said he took full responsibility for the US response to the pandemic, insisting that he had performed well. 

“We closed up the greatest economy in the world to fight this disease, which came from China,” he said, adding that mortality rates in the US were “down” and that a vaccine “will be delivered in weeks.” He said that the US, with the most recorded cases and deaths in the world in gross terms, was now “rounding the turn.”