- The number of children worldwide getting life-saving vaccinations has declined amid the pandemic, the UN and WHO say
- The drop in routine immunisations could cause more harm than Covid-19 itself, the World Health Organization head warns
- US pharmaceutical company Moderna says it is entering final testing phase for its coronavirus vaccine
- Phase one testing has proved safe and provoked an immune response, it says
- UK Health Minister Matt Hancock says masks will not be made compulsory in offices
- Hong Kong is bringing in strict new measures to counteract a virus surge, including closing all bars
- NZ PM Jacinda Ardern says they must prepare for new outbreaks, as the virus "explodes" globally
- A US firm says it will start the final stage of human vaccine trials later this month
- Globally, there have been 13.3m confirmed cases since the outbreak began, and 578,000 deaths
Hello, and welcome to today’s rolling coverage of the pandemic. It is now 197 days since China first informed the WHO about a strange new pneumonia in Wuhan. Since then, there have been more than 13 million confirmed cases, with only a handful of countries unaffected. More than half a million lives are confirmed to have been lost.
Here are some of the main news points today:
- Hong Kong - which had early success in containing the virus - says it is firmly in a third wave and has brought in even tougher social distancing rules
- President Trump has said the decision to keep San Diego and Los Angeles schools online only in the new term is “terrible"
- A vaccine being developed by US drug firm Moderna has proved effective in early trials and will enter human trials soon
- The Australian state of Victoria, which is under partial lockdown again, has recorded 238 new cases
- New Zealand has announced plans for local lockdowns if the virus starts spreading again in the community
- In Scotland, hairdressers, bars, cinemas, tourist attractions and places of worship are among the venues now allowed to reopen
- A Lancet study found avoidable deaths may have occured in England, because people didn't seek urgent care for heart symptoms during lockdown
Hong Kong third wave is 'worrying'Public health experts say the third wave of infection now hitting Hong Kong is the worst it has seen so far, and is much more worrying than an outbreak earlier this year.
"This is the start of a sustained massive local outbreak that we have never seen," said Prof Gabriel Leung, dean of the University of Hong Kong’s medical school, according to a South China Morning Post report.
A HKU microbiologist, Prof Yuen Kwok-yung, said the latest wave had occurred partly because control measures had been relaxed.
“The recurrence of the epidemic in Hong Kong is within expectations. As prevention and control measures around the world are loosened, the epidemic will definitely rebound,” said the SCMP quoting Prof Yuen.
Hong Kong saw 173 confirmed Covid-19 cases between 5 and 11 July - of which 107 were locally transmitted.
Hong Kong brings in toughest rules yetHong Kong’s toughest social distancing restrictions yet have now come into force as the city struggles to deal with its latest virus outbreak.
Under the new restrictions, all passengers on public transport are required to wear masks.
Restaurants are not allowed to serve dine-in customers from 6pm to 5am. Bars have been closed entirely.
The maximum size of group gatherings, which was earlier expanded to 50 people, has been reduced back down to just four people.
Twelve types of premises – including gyms and beauty parlours – will be closed. This also includes places of amusement, with theme parks like Hong Kong Disneyland having to shut their doors – again.
The Hong Kong park closed in January due to the virus, but had re-opened last month.
Melburnians fined for KFC and PokemonMelbourne was plunged back into lockdown last Thursday but people are still out and about breaking the stay-at-home rules, authorities say.
Most are visiting friends and family - police say they've caught people hiding in cupboards. But residents have also been fined A$1,652 (£919; $1,115) for things like playing Pokémon Go, and refusing to leave a fast food joint.
"Clearly KFC is popular during the lockdown," said a Victoria Police commissioner. "Police were called and the person still refused to leave until they had finished their meal."
Case numbers across Victoria continue to rise - with another 238 infections reported today. More than 2,300 cases - a fifth of the national total - have been found there in the past two weeks.
New Sydney cases and NT closes bordersIn other Australian developments on Wednesday:
- Sydney has also recorded 10 more cases linked to the Melbourne outbreak, prompting fears it will become a new hotspot
- The Northern Territory has thus closed its borders to Sydney, as well as Victoria
- The Australian Football League - which has most teams based in Victoria - will relocate most of the clubs north to Queensland to avoid the virus infecting the remaining weeks of competition
Virus-free New Zealand plans for 'any eventuality'New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced measures the country would take if it were to see a return of community cases.
New Zealand has now gone 70 days without a single case of community transmission. It is strictly limiting who can enter the country and everyone has to go into quarantine for two weeks.
But Ardern said the country had to "plan for any eventuality", noting the outbreak in Victoria in neighbouring Australia.
"It appears their current outbreak is linked to a managed isolation facility similar to the ones we run here and that the entire outbreak was seeded by just two cases," she said.
The new plan would involve bringing in swift, localised lockdowns and using rapid contact tracing to ensure anyone close to a confirmed infected person was isolated.
"Internationally the evidence remains that going hard and early is the best way to stop the virus and ultimately delivers the best results for human health and the economy over half measures that aren't as effective at getting on top of the virus and sees us in lockdown for longer," Ardern told reporters.
Read more: How New Zealand went 'hard and early' to beat Covid-19
Tokyo records 143 new casesJapan's capital, Tokyo, has recorded 143 new infections - bringing the city's total to nearly 8,200, said an NHK report.
In a statement on Twitter, the city's governor said that 70% of the new cases were people in their 20s and 30s.
Many of the infections have been traced to the city's nightlife district, with the most recent cluster being a theatre in central Tokyo.
Around 800 people who attended a production in early July at the Theatre Moliere have been asked by officials to take a virus test.
India virus crisis grows as new hubs emergeCases are galloping at an all-time high in India, where daily infections have been more than 28,000 for the past three days, according to statistics from Johns Hopkins University in the US.
With more than 900,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases, the country has the third-highest tally so far, behind the US and Brazil. However, India ranks lower at number eight when it comes to fatalities, with a death toll of 23,727.
Different states have witnessed peaks at varying points - for example, last month the focus was on the capital, Delhi, and Maharashtra state where infections were rapidly multiplying. While their numbers continue to be high, attention has now shifted to a handful of southern states that had, until recently, managed to keep the outbreak at bay.
An example of this is the southern city of Bangalore, where new infections have prompted officials to reimpose a week-long lockdown . And Chennai, another city in the south which returned to lockdown while the rest of India opened up, has only just eased its lockdown
Latest UK headlinesIf you're just joining us in the UK, good morning and welcome to our rolling coverage. Here are the latest headlines:
The biggest easing of lockdown restrictions in Scotland begins today with the reopening of indoor venues including pubs, restaurants, places of worship and hairdressers. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon described it as the riskiest stage of the process so far.
The UK government's temporary VAT cut for the hospitality and leisure industries comes into effect today. The tax has been slashed from 20% to 5% until January to encourage people to venture out and help protect jobs. Some firms, including McDonald's and Starbucks, are cutting their prices as a result.
Hospital admissions for heart attacks dropped by a third across England when coronavirus took off in the UK and the nation went into lockdown, say researchers. Experts suspect coronavirus fear and anxiety may have put some patients off seeking urgent help for symptoms.
And, more than a million people may have quit smoking since April, a survey suggests. Four in 10 of them say the pandemic played a role in their decision.