Mexico virus deaths rise; HK cases surge

Mexican health officials say the country's COVID-19-linked death toll has risen to more than 46,600.
Mexican health officials say the country's COVID-19-linked death toll has risen to more than 46,600.

Mexico has risen to become the country with the third most COVID-19 deaths in the world, behind only the United States - where a hurricane bearing down on the east coast is threatening to complicate efforts to contain the virus - and Brazil.

Hurricane Isaias' imminent arrival forced the closure of some outdoor testing sites on Saturday even as Florida reached a new daily high in deaths, and other states in the path of the storm prepared emergency shelters that comply with social-distancing measures.

"We had to put safety first," Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said on Friday.

Meanwhile, Mexican health officials on Friday reported 688 new deaths, pushing the country's confirmed total to more than 46,600.

That put Mexico just ahead of the United Kingdom, which has more than 46,100, according to the tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Some countries are seeing hopeful signs: China reported a more than 50 per cent drop in newly confirmed cases in a possible indication that its latest major outbreak in the northwestern region of Xinjiang may have run its course.

However, in Hong Kong and elsewhere, infections continue to surge.

Hong Kong reported more than 100 new cases as of Saturday among the population of 7.5 million.

Officials have reimposed dining restrictions and mask requirements.

Tokyo on Saturday registered its third day straight of record case numbers, the metropolitan government said.

Across the country, Japan's daily count of cases totalled a record 1579 people on Friday, the health ministry said.

Vietnam, a former success story, is struggling to control an outbreak spreading in its most famous beach resort.

A third person died there of coronavirus complications, officials said on Saturday, a day after it recorded its first COVID-19 death as it wrestles with a renewed outbreak after 99 days with no local cases.

All three died in a hospital in Danang, a hot spot with more than 100 cases in the past week.

In South Korea, prosecutors arrested the elderly leader of a secretive religious sect linked to more than 5200 of the country's approximately 14,300 confirmed cases.

He has denied charges of hiding members and under-reporting gatherings to avoid broader quarantines.

The global pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of this year's Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, with as few as 1000 pilgrims already residing in Saudi Arabia taking part, down from 2.5 million last year.

Poverty brought on by the pandemic is also making it harder for many to join in the four-day Eid al-Adha in which Muslims slaughter livestock and distribute the meat to the poor.

Meanwhile, India recorded its steepest spike of 57,118 new cases in the past 24 hours, taking its coronavirus caseload close to 1.7 million, with July alone accounting for nearly 1.1 million infections.

The country's Civil Aviation Ministry delayed resumption of international flights by another month until August 31.

But it will continue to allow several international carriers from the US, Europe and the Middle East to operate special flights to evacuate stranded citizens.

In France, travellers entering from 16 countries where the virus is circulating widely now must undergo virus tests upon arrival at airports and ports.

As autumn approaches in the northern hemisphere, many countries are grappling with how to safely reopen schools.

A scientist advising the British government on the coronavirus pandemic says pubs in England may have to be closed to allow schools to reopen in September.

Graham Medley, a member of the government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, told the BBC that there may have to be a "trade off".

The World Health Organisation predicts the effects of the pandemic will be felt for "decades to come".

"Most of the world's people remain susceptible to this virus, even in areas that have experienced severe outbreaks," WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in London on Friday.

"Although vaccine development is happening at record speed, we must learn to live with this virus."

Australian Associated Press