Coronavirus: What’s happening around the world on Thursday

The latest:

  • South Korea’s coronavirus infections are back ‘in full swing’ after a week of triple-digit daily increases.
  • India reports another record number of new infections over the past 24 hours.
  • The federal government has spent $37M so far on hotels for returning Canadians who can’t self-isolate at home

South Korea’s coronavirus infections are back “in full swing” and spreading nationwide after members of a church attended a political demonstration, authorities said on Thursday, threatening one of the world’s COVID-19 success stories.

The Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) reported 288 new cases as of midnight on Wednesday, marking a week of triple-digit daily increases, although down slightly from the previous day’s 297.

“This is a grave situation that could possibly lead to a nationwide pandemic,” vice-health minister Kim Gang-lip told a briefing.

Without aggressive contact tracing, the country could experience the types of spikes and continued infections witnessed in the U.S. and Europe, said KCDC deputy director Kwon Jun-wook.

“Consider the COVID-19 pandemic now to be in full swing.”

South Korea was one of the first countries outside China to see an explosive spread of the new coronavirus, but intensive tracing and testing had brought infections under control and quelled a subsequent series of spikes.

Members of pro-U.S. conservative right-wing and religious Christian groups wave flags and shout slogans during an anti-government rally in the central Gwanghwamun area of Seoul on Aug. 15. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)

The latest outbreak is driven by hundreds of infections among members of a church run by a far-right preacher. They had attended an anti-government protest in Seoul on Aug. 15, the 75th anniversary of Japan’s Second World War surrender and the end of colonial rule.

At least 53 of the new infections are linked to the Sarang Jeil Church, bringing the group’s total to 676. Hundreds more church members are being traced for testing.

Kwon urged all demonstrators to get tested immediately at nearby public health clinics to protect the vulnerable around them.

The demonstration may have been a “catalyst” for the nationwide outbreak, as churchgoers chartered buses to the capital from their homes across the country, including the southern port of Busan, Kwon said.

If infections continue rising at the current rate or accelerate, authorities say they will likely impose the strictest level of social distancing — closing schools, requiring employees to work from home and limiting gatherings to 10 people.

“Please do not make physical contact. Exchange nods instead of handshakes,” Kwon said. “Refrain from physical contact such as hugging.”

What’s happening with coronavirus in Canada

As of 5 a.m. ET on Thursday, Canada had 123,490 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 109,822 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 9,085.

The federal government has spent more than $37 million to cover the cost of housing travellers returning to Canada who lack a safe place to quarantine for 14 days. Eleven hotel sites have been set up across the country, each with its own health-care staff and security.

“Quarantine facilities are used to lodge persons entering Canada who are unable to isolate or quarantine because they are unable to meet the conditions of the mandatory isolation order (e.g., live with a vulnerable person, do not have private transportation if they are symptomatic),” Public Health Agency of Canada spokesperson Geoffroy Legault-Thivierge said in a statement. 

WATCH | Community groups gathering race-based data on COVID-19 in Montreal:

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The agency did not give a detailed breakdown of the costs but said they include accommodation, meals, transport, health checks and security. Some quarantine sites have a nurse practitioner on site 24/7.

There are 11 federal quarantine sites across the country and another two run jointly by federal and provincial governments. The 11 federal sites can house a total of 1,500 people, Legault-Thivierge said. 

The rooms are available only as a last resort, PHAC spokesperson Tammy Jarbeau said in a statement.”We expect that most travellers will quarantine in their own home or in the same place they are visiting in Canada,” she said.

“If this is not possible, travellers are responsible for making alternative arrangements for quarantine accommodations that are within their own financial means.”

Here’s what’s happening around the world

According to Johns Hopkins University, the global total of confirmed coronavirus cases is now more than 22.4 million. More than 787,900 people have died, while 14.3 million have recovered.

Venezuelans who fled their homeland’s economic crisis but have been forced to return in desperation are being blamed for the spread of the coronavirus and are being branded bioterrorists, the head of a leading medical group said on Wednesday.

More than 70,000 Venezuelans have gone home since April, some walking back for thousands of kilometres, according to the United Nations, after lockdowns, job losses and business closings brought an end to opportunities they sought elsewhere in Latin America.

A health worker collects a swab sample from a child at a free COVID-19 testing centre in Hyderabad, India. (Noah Seelam/AFP/Getty Images)

Indian health authorities reported another record number of new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours as it ramps up testing to more than 900,000 a day.

The 69,652 new cases reported Thursday push India’s total reported cases past 2.8 million, of which two million have recovered.

The Health Ministry says another 977 coronavirus fatalities were recorded in the past 24 hours, raising total deaths to 53,866.

WATCH | Mexico’s challenges with fighting COVID-19 pandemic:

Mexican officials say COVID-19 cases are on a “sustained decline,” but the country has the world’s third-highest death toll globally, and there are concerns that thousands of people aren’t getting tested or treated. 2:21

The Egyptian government has announced that worshipers will soon be able to attend mosque for Friday prayers now that the daily tally of confirmed new virus cases is plateauing at below 200.

Egypt’s Minister of Religious Endowment Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa said that weekly congregational prayers may be held starting Aug. 28. The gatherings have been suspended for nearly five months.

Worshipers are expected to observe social distancing and wear face masks to prevent another viral outbreak, Gomaa said in a statement Wednesday. He said the Friday sermon, which usually lasts for nearly an hour, will be reduced to 10 minutes.

Starting in August, the number of new cases in Egypt has dropped significantly.

The Egyptian government has announced that worshipers will soon be able to attend mosque for Friday prayers. (AFP/Getty Images)

Australian lawmakers will for the first time be able to attend Parliament remotely due to new rules introduced in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Lawmakers will be able to participate in debates and ask ministers questions by video if they can persuade House of Representatives Speaker Tony Smith that they can’t come to the capital, Canberra, because the pandemic had made it “essentially impossible, unreasonably impracticable, or would give rise to an unreasonable risk” for the lawmaker to attend.

But they will not be able to vote on legislation, second motions or move amendments to legislation.

Most states and territories have closed their borders to non-essential interstate travelers to slow the spread of coronavirus, which is concentrated in the cities of Melbourne and Sydney.

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