At least 179 recovered South Korean coronavirus patients have tested positive again for the dangerous bug, officials said.
South Korea’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) announced that the tally accounted for 16 new cases detected of patients relapsing from the killer virus, according to media reports.
Patients in their 20s were responsible for the highest number of patients who have retested positive, the agency said.
There were 41 cases (22.9 per cent) of patients in their 20s, followed by 32 cases (17.9 per cent) of patients in their 50s, according to the KCDC.
Jeong Eun-kyeong, director of the KCDC, said that an investigation is underway to determine why the patients were retesting positive, reports the New York Post.
Jeong has previously suggested that the virus may have been reactivated after remaining dormant in the patients, as opposed to them being reinfected.
South Korea has confirmed more than 10,600 COVID-19 cases, with more than 8042 patients being cleared of the virus, officials said.
INDIA, SINGAPORE’S SHOCK SURGE
It comes as India and Singapore announced their biggest single-day spikes in new coronavirus cases, as the crisis intensifies in parts of Asia. India’s spike came after the government eased one of the world’s strictest lockdowns to allow some manufacturing and agricultural activity to resume. An additional 1553 cases were reported over 24 hours in India, raising the national total past 17,000. At least 543 people have died in the country from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, and epidemiologists forecast the peak may not be reached before June.
Singapore now has the highest number of cases in South-East Asia at 7,984, a massive surge from just 200 on March 15. Authorities say most of the new cases were again linked to foreign workers.
More than 200,000 low-wage workers from Asia live in tightly packed dormitories that became virus hot spots after they were overlooked earlier by the government. Officials have said that cases are expected to rise as testing continues at the dorms, but are hoping that a partial lockdown until May 4, mandatory wearing of masks and strict social distancing measures will help curb the spread of the virus.
WHO BOSS SAYS ‘WORST IS AHEAD OF US’
The head of the World Health Organisation has warned that “the worst is yet ahead of us” in the coronavirus outbreak, raising new alarm bells about the pandemic just as many countries are beginning to ease restrictive measures.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus didn’t specify exactly why he believes that the outbreak that has infected nearly 2.5 million people and killed over 166,000, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University, could get worse.
Some people, though, have pointed to the likely future spread of the illness through Africa, where health systems are far less developed.
Mr Tedros alluded to the so-called Spanish flu in 1918 as a reference for the coronavirus outbreak.
“It has a very dangerous combination and this is happening … like the 1918 flu that killed up to 100 million people,” he told reporters in Geneva.
“But now we have technology, we can prevent that disaster, we can prevent that kind of crisis.”
“Trust us. The worst is yet ahead of us,” he said. “Let’s prevent this tragedy. It’s a virus that many people still don’t understand.”
JOHNSON RESISTS EASING LOCKDOWNS
British PM Boris Johnson has told colleagues he is very cautious about lifting the lockdown restrictions for fear of a second wave of the coronavirus.
It comes as the British government on Monday said there were “encouraging signs” that the coronavirus outbreak was easing but warned it was too early to lift the lockdown despite new evidence of the economic toll.
But the PM told cabinet colleagues, advisers and officials he is concerned lifting restrictions too soon could result in a “second peak” and result in another costly lockdown.
Mr Johnson is currently recuperating from the coronavirus at Chequers and has told Cabinet colleagues he could return to work as early as the end of next week.
He reportedly shared his views on the lockdown in a two-hour meeting on Friday with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, his most senior adviser Dominic Cummings, and director of communications Lee Cain.
Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill joined in by video conference as did several of the Prime Minister’s senior advisers, including Sir Eddie Lister, Munira Mirza and Liam Booth-Smith.
“The idea that we will be rushing to lift measures is a non-starter,” a government source told The Times.
“If the transmission rate rises significantly we will have to do a harder lockdown again.”
The PM’s cautious approach is in contrast to that of Michael Gove and Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who both favour an early easing of restrictions.
Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust and a government adviser, said the lockdown should be eased within weeks.
“The damage it’s doing to all of our health, our wellbeing, our mental health, is disproportionately of course affecting the most vulnerable,” he told Sophy Ridge on Sunday on Sky.
“I hope we will get there in three, four weeks’ time because it is clear that the lockdown can’t go on for much longer.”
And in more bad news for British economy, pubs could remain closed until Christmas in a devastating blow to the trade.
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove refused to rule out the possibility on Sunday.
He said locals would be among the last to reopen after the COVID-19 lockdown.
British pub industry insiders fear staying closed until the end of the year could kill off a huge number of Britain’s 48,349 locals.
Mr Gove was asked whether pubs would open “before winter”.
In response he said: “The other inference that I draw from your question, which is that areas of hospitality will be among the last to exit the lockdown — yes, that is true.”
Some 16,509 people hospitalised with COVID-19 in Britain have now died, new health ministry figures showed, up by 449 — the lowest daily toll for a fortnight.
Health officials say the number of new cases is flat and figures for people in hospital in London, the epicentre of the outbreak in Britain, continue to fall.
“There are encouraging signs that we are making progress,” Finance Minister Rishi Sunak told the government’s daily media briefing.
But “we are not there yet and it is very clear that, for now, what we should focus on is following the guidance, staying home”.
Britain went into lockdown at the end of March, with people told to stay indoors except for daily exercise and buying essentials.
FRANCE REACHES ‘PAINFUL’ LANDMARK
France on Monday (local time) announced it had become the fourth country worldwide to register over 20,000 deaths from the novel coronavirus, after recording 547 new fatalities in the epidemic.
“Tonight, our country has passed a barrier that is symbolic and particularly painful,” top health official Jerome Salomon told reporters.
He announced that the country’s total death toll was 20,265, while welcoming new falls in the numbers in hospital and intensive care.
Mr Salomon noted that the coronavirus death toll was now was well above the 14,000 people who died in France’s worst recent flu epidemic and even topped the 19,000 killed by the 2003 heatwave.
France is the fourth country to record more than 20,000 deaths, following the United States — by far the worst affected worldwide — Italy and Spain.
But Mr Salomon also welcomed data indicating that a person with COVID-19 in France was now infecting on average fewer than one other person, as opposed to three before the country went into lockdown more than a month ago.
“This is how we will manage to put the brakes on the epidemic,” he said. The number of people in intensive care infected with COVID-19 fell for the 12th day in a row, by 61 patients to 5,863.
“The fall … is being confirmed but it remains very slight,” said Mr Salomon. Meanwhile the number of patients in hospital fell by 26 — the sixth successive daily decrease — to 30,584.
France has been in lockdown since March 17 in a bid to slow the spread of the epidemic. But President Emmanuel Macron announced last week that the lockdown could begin to be eased from May 11.
Schools could gradually reopen then but cafes, cinemas and cultural venues would remain closed, and there could be no summer festivals until mid-July at the earliest.
Unlike some European countries, France has been giving daily tolls of deaths in nursing homes.
In one old people’s home in Mars-la-Tour in the northeastern Moselle region, 22 of 51 residents out died from COVID-19 over the last two weeks, its director said.
In a press conference on Sunday, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe warned it would take a long time to defeat the epidemic, emphasising the initial easing would only be partial.
“Our life from May 11 will not be like our life before, not immediately, and probably not for a long time,” he said.
Salomon said data indicated less than 10 per cent of the population in France had been infected with the virus, noting this meant there was going to be no herd immunity in the country on May 11.
“The levels of immunity are probably higher in the areas that have been worst affected,” he said.
“The collective immunity in France is low, as many other countries are indicating as well.” France has 114,657 confirmed cases, but officials say the real figure is much higher due to a lack of testing.
PRINCE PHILIP MAKES RARE STATEMENT
Meanwhile, Prince Philip, the 98-year-old husband of the Queen, has made a rare statement to thank those involved in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, has made few public appearances since he stepped down from official engagements in August 2017 and is currently staying with his wife at her Windsor Castle home during the outbreak of the virus.
“As we approach World Immunisation Week, I wanted to recognise the vital and urgent work being done by so many to tackle the pandemic; by those in the medical and scientific professions, at universities and research institutions, all united in working to protect us from COVID-19,” he said.
“On behalf of those of us who remain safe and at home, I also wanted to thank all key workers who ensure the infrastructure of our life continues; the staff and volunteers working in food production and distribution, those keeping postal and delivery services going, and those ensuring the rubbish continues to be collected.”
Philip is the latest member of the royal family to issue a message to the nation since the country was put into a virtual lockdown in a bid to curb the spread of the virus.
Earlier this month, the Queen made only the fifth televised address of her record-breaking 68-year reign to tell Britons they would overcome the coronavirus outbreak if they stayed resolute, a message she repeated in an audio message at Easter.
Prince Charles, who has recovered after suffering mild symptoms of COVID-19, has also thanked health staff for their work, saying it was a strange and distressing time for the nation.
FACEBOOK TO BAN EVENTS PROMOTING PROTEST GATHERINGS
Facebook is taking the step to remove posts and events which encourage people to defy lockdown rules and participate in large public gatherings.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in an interview on Good Morning America that the protest events should be classified as dangerous and misinforming.
“We do classify that as harmful misinformation and we take that down,” Mr Zuckerberg said.
“At the same time, it’s important that people can debate policies so there’s a line on this, you know, more than normal political discourse. I think a lot of the stuff that people are saying that is false around a health emergency like this can be classified as harmful misinformation.”
FAUCI CASTS DOUBT ON ANTIBODY TESTS
Meanwhile, White House coronavirus task force member Dr Anthony Fauci is urging caution about relying on coronavirus antibody tests to determine whether someone who has recovered from the illness is immune.
Dr Fauci said on Good Morning America that “we still have a way to go” with antibody, or serology, tests, which check for proteins in the immune system through a blood sample.
The presence of proteins means a person was exposed to the coronavirus and developed antibodies against it, which may mean they have at least some immunity.
Health officials suggested that tests could be used as a way to help determine when to reopen communities.
“The problem is that these are tests that need to be validated and calibrated, and many of the tests out there don’t do that. So even though you hear about companies flooding the market with these antibody tests, a lot of them are not validated,” Dr Fauci said.
“There’s an assumption – a reasonable assumption – that when you have an antibody that you are protected against reinfection, but that has not been proven for this particular virus. It’s true for other viruses,” he said.
The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease added that “we don’t know how long that protection, if it exists, lasts. Is it one month? Three months? Six months? A year?
“So the assumption that with the tests that are out there, if you have an antibody positivity, you’re good to go – unless that test has been validated and you can show there’s a correlation between the antibody and protection, it is an assumption to say that this is something that we can work with,” Dr Fauci said.
“We still have a way to go with them,” he added.
Meanwhile, Fauci also said there would be no real economic recovery if the US doesn’t get coronavirus “under control.”
“Clearly, this is something that is hurting from the standpoint of economics, from the standpoint of things that have nothing to do with the virus,” Dr Fauci said when asked about protests that have erupted across the US amid shelter-in-place orders.