Social Media Criticized; Tokyo Athletes Infected: Virus Update

U.S. senator Amy Klobuchar demanded that social media platforms be held liable for spreading misinformation about Covid-19 vaccines, a day after Facebook pushed back against President Joe Biden’s comments that the platforms are “killing people.”

Three members of South Africa’s soccer squad and a rugby coach tested positive in Tokyo’s Olympic Village, less than a week before the opening ceremony of the games. Southeast Asia continues to reel from a wave of infections, with Thailand reporting a record 11,397 new cases on Sunday.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson quickly reversed a decision not to go into full self-isolation following contact with Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who tested positive for Covid-19 on Saturday. France won’t require Covid “health passes” for entry into large shopping malls.

  • Global Tracker: Cases top 189.8 million; deaths pass 4.07 million
  • Vaccine Tracker: More than 3.57 billion doses administered
  • Long Covid’ fears grow in U.K. as curbs end and delta surges
  • Covid’s daily U.S. death toll tops guns, cars and flu combined
  • Dance Lessons at $15,000 a Pop Mark Ballroom’s Covid Comeback
  • MRNA vaccine access carves up world into haves and have-nots

Murthy Says Mask Rules Not Cause of New Spread (11:50 a.m. NY)

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy pushed back on criticism that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acted too soon in relaxing mask rules for the fully vaccinated, helping drive the recent surge in U.S. infections.

“What’s driving the rise of infections actually is the delta variant,” Murthy said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “This is the most highly transmissible…variant of Covid-19 that we have seen to date, and it is spreading quickly.”

The CDC has been criticized, including by Murthy’s predecessor Jerome Adams, for making a decision prematurely that ended up discouraging mask wearing more broadly. Murthy said the decision, in May, was meant to provide more “flexibility” for vaccinated people and local governments to set Covid-19 guidelines specific to their area.

Senator Wants Platforms Liable for Misinformation (11:19 a.m. NY)

Senator Amy Klobuchar said misinformation on social media about Covid-19 vaccines adds urgency to her call to change liability standards for what is published on their platforms.

“There’s absolutely no reason they shouldn’t be able to monitor this better and take this crap off of their platforms,” she said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Her comments come after President Joe Biden said Friday that the platforms are “killing people” by allowing the spread of false information.

South African Soccer Players Test Positive in Tokyo (11 a.m. NY)

Three members of South Africa’s Under-23 soccer team tested positive for Covid-19 at the team’s base in Tokyo ahead of the Oympic Games, the South African Football Association said.

The SAFA named the players as Thabiso Monyane, Kamohelo Mahlatsi and video analyst Mario Masha. A South African rugby sevens coach, Neil Powell, also tested postive, the SAFA said in a statement.

“The timing of the positive results suggests that the PCR test in these individuals was done during the incubation period of the infection, which is how they could be negative in South Africa and then positive in Japan,” Team SA’s Chief Medical Officer Phatho Zondi said. “They are now in isolation where they will continue to be monitored and will not be allowed to train or have any physical contact with the rest of the squad,” Dr Zondi added.

Vietnam Tells Hanoi Residents to Stay Home (8:48 a.m. NY)

Residents in Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, were ordered to stay at home from Monday and venture out only when “truly necessary” as unlinked coronavirus cases emerge.

People should leave their homes only for work, to purchase food and medicines, or for urgent medical assistance, according to a statement on the government’s website. Non-essential businesses will close, while dining in at restaurants has already been prohibited. The city reported 37 new local virus cases Sunday, the health ministry’s Suc Khoe Doi Song publication reported.

Thai Police Use Tear Gas on Protesters (7:52 a.m. NY)

Thai riot police shot tear gas and fired water cannons at pro-democracy activists rallying in the capital as thousands marched to protest the government’s management of the nation’s worst coronavirus outbreak.

Demonstrators in face masks marched near Government House in central Bangkok, despite restrictions on public gatherings of more than five people. Local media reported that they called for more funds for vaccination.

Thailand’s current outbreak has been fueled by the highly-contagious delta variant. Cumulative cases have exceeded 400,000 and daily fatalities are breaking records too.

France Limits Health Pass Use (7:26 a.m. NY)

France will limit the use in shopping malls of a contested digital “health pass” that provides evidence of Covid status, even as the spread of the coronavirus accelerates again.

In a bid to limit the impact on retailers, the passes will only be required to enter malls with a surface area of more than 20,000 square meters (24,000 square yards), Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said in an interview with Sunday newspaper JDD.

The move comes after thousands of people attended marches on Saturday in major cities to oppose President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to use health passes to access venues such as restaurants and cafes. The passes include data on Covid-19 test results and vaccination status.

Social Media Criticized; Tokyo Athletes Infected: Virus Update

Johnson U-Turns Into Self-Isolation (5:50 p.m. HK)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would isolate after being contacted by the U.K.’s test and trace program, following a backlash after saying hours earlier that he’d take part in a daily testing program instead.

“He was at Chequers when contacted by Test and Trace and will remain there to isolate,” a spokesman for Johnson said, referring to the premier’s countryside residence. “He will not be taking part in the testing pilot.”

Johnson’s government is due to lift remaining coronavirus restrictions for England in a day it’s dubbed “Freedom Monday.”

Italian Islands to Test Foreign Arrivals (4:44 p.m. HK)

Some Italian regions and holiday destinations including the islands of Sardinia and Sicily and the Adriatic region of Abruzzo are introducing Covid tests at airports for foreign arrivals. Sardinian President Christian Solinas announced Saturday that the region will join Sicily, which has already introduced checks for arrivals from Malta, Spain and Portugal.

Italy reported 3,121 Coronavirus infections Saturday, the most since May 29. Intensive care unit patients rose for a third day to 162, after touching a 10-month low earlier in the week.

South Africa Rolls Out Weekend Shots (4:31 p.m. HK)

South African authorities are giving vaccinations at the weekend for the first time in the country’s economic hub of Gauteng, which has been badly hit by Covid-19.

The nation’s inoculation program was disrupted by unrest last week in the south-eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng, the regional authority which includes Johannesburg. South Africa has been on virus alert level 4, its second-highest, since late June.

Gauteng has recorded 805,478 infections since the start of the pandemic. The national death toll from Covid-19 stands at 66,676, with the total number of cases at 2.28 million by July 17.

U.K. Advised Against Shots for Under-18s: Telegraph (4:10 p.m. HK)

The U.K. Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advised ministers against mass jabs for children and teenagers, the Sunday Telegraph reported.

Children between 12 and 15 years old will be offered the vaccine only if vulnerable or living with adults vulnerable to Covid-19, the newspaper said, without specifying the sources of information. Seventeen-year-olds turning 18 within three months will be able to get the vaccine, the Telegraph also reported.

Johnson, Sunak to Skip Full Self-Isolation (3:53 p.m. HK)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will avoid strict self-isolation after a recent meeting with Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who tested positive for Covid-19 a day later.

Instead, Johnson and his Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak will continue working from Downing Street and join a “daily contact testing pilot,” during which they “will be conducting only essential government business,” a spokesman for the premier said in an email.

Virtually all coronavirus restrictions will be lifted in England on Monday, even as the delta variant continues to spread rapidly across the U.K. The U.K. reported 54,674 new Covid cases on Saturday, the most since Jan. 15.

South Korea Tightens Restrictions Outside Seoul (2:57 p. m. HK)

South Korea will ban private gatherings of more than four people outside greater Seoul area starting Monday, Yonhap News Agency reported, citing Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum.

The government decided to tighten the restrictions after a surge in cases in recent days, Yonhap said. Most regions outside the capital area have been under “Level 2” rules, where gatherings of more than eight were banned, according to Yonhap.

Two Athletes Test Positive in Tokyo Olympic Village (11:10 a.m. HK)

Two foreign athletes tested positive for Covid-19 at the Tokyo Olympic Village, the first cases reported among competitors at the village, according to a document from Tokyo’s Olympic organizing committee on Sunday.

The games, which start July 23, will be the first to be held without spectators as Tokyo grapples with a surge in coronavirus cases that prompted the government to declare a fourth state of emergency in the capital earlier this month. The city reported 1,410 new infections on Saturday, the most since Jan. 21. There are 55 positive cases so far tied to the Tokyo Games.

Social Media Criticized; Tokyo Athletes Infected: Virus Update

Sydney May Face Further Curbs as Cases Exceed 100 (10:41 a.m. HK)

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian refused to rule out further restrictions as cases in Sydney remained stubbornly high despite tough lockdown measures. Australia’s most populous state recorded 105 new locally-transmitted coronavirus cases, underscoring the challenge of containing the latest outbreak of the delta variant.

“I won’t rule out tweaks in the next few days,” Berejiklian told reporters Sunday. “Our aim is to quash the virus.”

Communities in three locations in Sydney were barred from leaving the areas on Saturday, while Berejiklian ramped up restrictions across Greater Sydney, including tougher rules for non-critical retail trading and an order to cease construction work until July 30, when the current lockdown is due to end.

Japan Mulls Experiments to Test Social Opening (10:17 a.m. HK)

Japan may begin experiments in September to test how quickly it can ease restrictions on eateries and major events once more people have two vaccine doses, Sankei Shimbun newspaper reported. They could include allowing people to attend a large-scale concert after taking PCR or antibody tests to gauge the effectiveness of the shots, said the report, without specifying where it obtained the information.

A government panel will announce its views on the relaxation of limits on eateries and events by Aug. 22, when Tokyo is scheduled to lift a state of emergency, the report said. One in five Japanese people had two vaccine doses as of Thursday, according to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s office.

Tokyo, which hosts the Olympic Games in less than a week, is struggling to contain resurgent cases. The city reported 1,410 new infections on Saturday, the most since Jan. 21.

Singapore Expands Testing as New Clusters Found (9:38 a.m. HK)

Singapore is testing fishmongers across the country after discovering that an outbreak at a seafood port had spread to markets and food centers. Three new clusters were identified.

The city-state closed Jurong Fishery Port for deep cleaning and is investigating seven cases there, the health ministry said Saturday. Authorities are testing fishmongers from all markets as a precaution after the virus spread to the Hong Lim market in Chinatown and cases were found in other markets and food centers, it said in a statement. Workers at the port were placed in quarantine earlier this month.

The port cases follow an outbreak linked to karaoke outlets that dealt a blow to the city-state’s efforts to reopen. Singapore reported 60 new locally transmitted Covid-19 cases on Saturday, of which 29 were linked to the karaoke cluster. The authorities have temporarily closed hundreds of nightlife venues and quarantined more than 2,000 people.

Thailand Extends Curbs Amid Record Cases (9:23 a.m. HK)

Thailand extended virus containment measures to three more provinces, including the closure of malls, a night time curfew, and an advisory against interprovincial travel, as daily coronavirus cases and deaths surged to new records.

The Southeast Asian nation reported 11,397 new infections on Sunday, exceeding 10,000 for the second straight day, despite the imposition of some lockdown-like restrictions since last Monday. There were 141 deaths on Saturday and 101 on Sunday, data from the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration show.

Social Media Criticized; Tokyo Athletes Infected: Virus Update

Johnson Urges Britons to Get Second Shot (7:01 a.m. HK)

The U.K. government said every adult has been offered a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and two-thirds of the population has had two shots, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson prepares to lift most curbs in England on Monday.

The eight-week gap between first and second inoculations in the U.K. means every adult will have the option of getting both doses by mid-September, the Department of Health and Social Care said.

N.Y. Daily Cases Above 1,000 Again (2:43 p.m. NY)

New York state reported more than 1,000 new cases for first time since mid-May, as a city council member called for renewed mask mandates in indoor public spaces. “We need to reverse this trend,” City Councilman Mark D. Levine, who chairs the health committee, tweeted on Saturday.

This week, Los Angeles reimposed mask mandates indoors — regardless of vaccination status — and San Francisco and Las Vegas issued mask recommendations as cases driven by the delta variant continue to rise. The variant now represents 41% of samples tested in New York City, up from 26% the previous week.

Earlier, Mayor Bill de Blasio said there were no plans to reimpose mask mandates in New York City.

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