The World Health Organization says the coronavirus pandemic has “slowed down” in the past week although death rates continued to rise, with more than 67,000 new deaths reported.
The UN health agency said in its latest epidemiological update on Wednesday that even though there was a “downward trend” in the number of cases in Europe, the region still has the biggest proportion of new cases and deaths globally. WHO noted that Africa reported the highest increase in new cases and deaths, driven by South Africa, Algeria and Kenya.
In the past week, WHO said, the number of new cases reported in Europe dropped by about 6% after a 10% decline the previous week, suggesting that lock downs across the continent are effectively slowing transmission. Still, the region accounts for about half of new global deaths.
Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:
White House considers lifting European travel restrictions
The White House is considering rescinding entry bans for most non-US citizens who recently were in Brazil, Britain, Ireland and 26 other European countries, five US and airline officials told Reuters.
The plan has won the backing of White House coronavirus task-force members, public health and other federal agencies, the people briefed on the matter said, but President Donald Trump has not made a final decision and the timing remains uncertain.
Americans urged to stay home over holiday
US health officials and politicians pleaded with Americans on Tuesday to stay at home over the Thanksgiving holiday as record coronavirus caseloads pushed hospitals to their limits.
The chorus of public appeals intensified heading into a holiday weekend that is expected to further fuel an alarming surge of infections nationwide, while the daily US death toll climbed above 2,000 - at least four deaths every three minutes. It marked the highest 24-hour loss of life from the pandemic since early May.
“We are on fire with Covid,” Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear said on CNN, defending unpopular restrictions he ordered last week that included new limits on retail activity and school closures. “We’re just trying to do the right thing.”
Death toll spikes across Europe
Poland reported on Wednesday a new daily record of 674 coronavirus-related deaths, while Russia reported a record 507 deaths in the last 24 hours, taking its national death toll to 37,538 since the pandemic began.
Germany reported a record 410 deaths in the last 24 hours, before the 16 federal state leaders and Chancellor Angela Merkel were due to meet on Wednesday to discuss restrictions for the Christmas and New Year holidays.
More than 59.8 million people have been reported to be infected globally and 1,409,664 have died, according to a Reuters tally.
Singapore nearly virus-free
Having once had the highest Covid-19 rate in Southeast Asia, Singapore has all but eradicated the virus after reporting 14 days without any new local cases on Tuesday, and saying it had snuffed out the last cluster of infection at a worker dormitory.
The cramped dormitories for young, low-wage labourers, mainly from Bangladesh, India and China had been at the centre of the city-state’s spiralling cases earlier this year.
While Singapore has reported zero local cases for two weeks, there has been a trickle of infected people arriving from abroad who have been immediately isolated, authorities say.
Mutations not making virus able to spread more rapidly
The coronavirus is mutating as it spreads around the world in the pandemic, but none of the mutations currently documented appears to be making it able to spread more rapidly, scientists said on Wednesday.
In a study using a global dataset of virus genomes from 46,723 people with COVID-19 from 99 countries, researchers identified more than 12,700 mutations, or changes, in the SARS-CoV-2 virus.