World News

What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

(Reuters) - Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:

A notice is tied to a railing inside the premises of Taj Mahal after authorities reopened the monument for visitors, amidst the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Agra, India, September 21, 2020. REUTERS/Alasdair Pal

U.S. to surpass grim milestone

The death toll from the spread of coronavirus in the United States was approaching more than 200,000 lives on Monday, more than double the number of fatalities in India, the country reporting the world’s second-highest number of cases.

The United States, on a weekly average, is now losing about 800 lives each day to the virus, according to a Reuters tally. That is down from a peak of 2,806 daily deaths recorded on April 15.

During the early months of the pandemic, 200,000 deaths was regarded by many as the maximum number of lives likely to be lost in the United States to COVID-19.

The pandemic is no longer focused on one or two epicentres. Instead it is smouldering across all states, raising fears that when colder weather forces more people inside, it could surpass the surge seen in the summer.

UK ‘at critical point’

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was on Monday pondering a second national lockdown as an accelerating coronavirus outbreak threatened to destroy any shoots of economic recovery and send millions back into isolation.

The UK already has the biggest official COVID-19 death toll in Europe - and the fifth largest in the world - while it is borrowing record amounts in an attempt to pump emergency money through the damaged economy.

But new COVID-19 cases are rising by at least 6,000 per day in Britain, according to week-old data, hospital admissions are doubling every eight days, and the testing system is buckling.

“The trend in the UK is heading in the wrong direction and we are at a critical point in the pandemic,” Chris Whitty, the government’s chief medical officer, will say at a briefing.

Czech Republic sees surge in cases

Czech Health Minister Adam Vojtech resigned on Monday following criticism of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic after a surge in cases.

Before the start of the summer, the government lifted almost all restrictions imposed during the first wave of the pandemic. The number of infections has doubled this month and has grown at the second fastest rate in Europe in recent weeks, behind Spain.

Prime Minister Andrej Babis thanked Vojtech for his work in a Twitter message. Vojtech had been heavily criticised over the new wave of infections although some opposition politicians saw him as a scapegoat for the government.

In the past 14 days, the Czech Republic has registered 193 infections per 100,000 people.

‘Light at the end of the tunnel’ Down Under

Australia reported its smallest daily increase in new coronavirus infections in more than three months, but authorities in the nation’s virus hotspot of Victoria said they could not hasten the easing of restrictions.

The 16 new infections are Australia’s smallest daily jump since June 14, while two additional deaths were reported.

“This light at the end of the tunnel is getting closer every day,” Nick Coatsworth, the chief deputy medical officer, told reporters.

Meanwhile, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern lifted all coronavirus restrictions across the country, except in second-wave hotspot Auckland, as the number of new infections slowed to a trickle.

Taj Mahal welcomes back visitors

India reopened its famed monument to love, the Taj Mahal, with the first visitors trickling in on Monday as authorities reported 86,961 new coronavirus infections, with no signs of a peak yet.

A Chinese national and a visitor from Delhi were among the first to step into the white marble tomb built by a 17th-century Mughal emperor for his wife when it opened at sunrise, ending six months of closure.

Daily visitor numbers have been capped at 5,000, versus an average of 20,000 before the pandemic. Tickets are only being sold online, with fewer than 300 bought on the first day.

Compiled by Linda Noakes; Editing by Mark Heinrich