International

Coronavirus digest: Don’t ignore climate during pandemic, Steinmeier warns

Germany’s President said that while COVID-19 deserves society’s full attention, it’s important to not forget “humanity’s other great challenges.” Meanwhile, cases in Europe continue to surge.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Sunday that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic should not stop the world from losing sight of the long-term future.

In a speech during the ceremony for the German Environment Award, Steinmeier acknowledged that the fight against COVID-19 demanded society’s complete focus at the moment, but he vowed the virus “will not take our future from us.”

People should not forget about “humanity’s other great challenges,” such as protecting resources and the environment, he said. Climate change, stressed Steinmeier, is not taking a break during the pandemic.

The German president delivered his remarks via video for the award ceremony that was taking place mostly digitally this year.

Steinmeier himself is still in quarantine after one of his bodyguards tested positive for COVID-19.

This year’s German Environment Award was given to climate expert Ottmar Edenhofer, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).

The ceremony comes as Germany registered 11,176 new coronavirus infections, down from 11,714 the day before. The country also reported 29 new deaths.

Around Europe

Countries across the continent are continuing to report record daily infection figures.

Hungary logged over 3,000 cases for the first time Sunday, the government said. It’s the country’s highest single-day tally, bringing its total number of infections to 59,247. Hungary also reported 35 new deaths, with 1,425 fatalities in total.

The UK is considering reducing its mandatory quarantine period for people exposed to COVID-19.

“Teams are looking at what we can do around those isolation periods, this will be scientifically led,” Northern Ireland Minister Brandon Lewis told Sky News on Sunday, following reports the period could be shortened to seven or 10 days.  

Italy is tightening restrictions after a record number of new cases. Cinemas, theaters, gyms and swimming pools must close under new rules announced by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte that will come into effect Monday.

Bars and restaurants, meanwhile, must stop serving at 6 p.m. Italy reported nearly 20,000 new cases over a 24-hour period on Saturday.

Americas

The top aide to US Vice President Mike Pence has tested positive for coronavirus. A spokesman for the vice president said Pence and his wife had tested negative, though Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, tested positive on Saturday.

Pence is set to continue his campaign schedule, but as a “close contact” of an infected individual will be monitored for symptoms, per CDC guidelines for essential workers in the US.

Meanwhile, the top US infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said it would not be clear whether a COVID-19 vaccine was safe and effective until early December and that widespread vaccination is unlikely until later next year.

“When you talk about vaccinating a substantial proportion of the population so that you can have a significant impact on the dynamics of the outbreak, that very likely will not be until the second or third quarter of the year,” Fauci told the BBC.

His remarks come as the US reported a record number of new coronavirus infections for the second day in a row, with nearly 89,000.

Asia-Pacific

China’s Western Region of Xinjiang is closing schools for a week and conducting city-wide tests after discovering a case of COVID-19 in Kashgar. A 17-year-old girl tested positive for the virus on Saturday during a regular inspection but reported no symptoms. It’s the first local infection on mainland China since October 14.

Xinjiang authorities said close contacts of the infected person had been isolated and a nucleic acid test had been launched covering Kashgar’s 700,000 inhabitants. More than 300,000 people had been tested by Sunday.

Australia’s Victoria state has held off on easing coronavirus restrictions in Melbourne after an outbreak in the North of the city.

Victoria’s premier, Daniel Andrews, said the state was awaiting the results of 3,000 people tested in Melbourne over the past 24 hours, describing it as a “cautious pause,” but not a setback.

He said authorities wanted to rule out the possibility of community transmission linked to the cluster.

Melbourne has had restrictions limiting retail business in the city since early August, with 5 million people living under stay-at-home orders. Andrews warned the latest outbreak threatened to push the reopening date closer to November 1.

“I know everyone will be disappointed we’re not making that move today,” he said. “I am too.”