That’s all from me on the blog today. I will now be handing over to my colleague Robyn Vinter in London
Southeast Asian countries need more help securing Covid-19 vaccines, as the region struggles to contain record infections and deaths driven by the Delta variant, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said.
The region escaped the worst when the pandemic erupted last year, but in recent weeks has seen the highest deaths globally, as soaring infections have pushed fragile health care systems to the brink and exposed sluggish vaccination roll-outs.
“This Covid-19 surge driven by the Delta variant is claiming a tragic toll on families across Southeast Asia and it’s far from over,” Alexander Matheou, Asia Pacific Director, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said in a statement.
“In the short-term, we need much greater efforts by richer countries to urgently share their millions of excess vaccine doses with countries in Southeast Asia.”
Matheou added: “These coming weeks are critical for scaling up treatment, testing and vaccinations, in every corner of all countries in Southeast Asia.”
Indonesia and Philippines, the most populous countries in Southeast Asia, have only fully vaccinated about 10-11% of their population, while Vietnam sits at below 2%
To overseas eyes, going into national lockdown over a single case should have been a hard sell, even for an extraordinarily popular prime minister such as Jacinda Ardern.
But a disastrous outbreak of the Delta variant in Sydney has helped galvanise New Zealand’s “team of 5 million” – and across the country, the government’s tough strategy on Covid-19 has enjoyed widespread popular support.
On Tuesday, New Zealand was plunged into a national, level 4 lockdown – the highest level of restrictions – as the country announced its first local case of the Delta variant.
That news was greeted with a degree of surprise, and some criticism from overseas figures. Ex-politician and brexiter Nigel Farage said Ardern had “lost her marbles”. A presenter for GB News – a partisan UK television station that has struggled in the ratings – said “Jacinda Ardern’s zero Covid fantasy is nothing short of a never ending nightmare.” Writer Glenn Greenwald called the move “demented, oblivious to the costs of sustained isolation”.
But in-country, the loudest overseas critics of its elimination approach have been mostly greeted with bemusement or defiance.
People planning to tie the knot with partners in Australia will be granted travel exemptions, paving the aisle for long delayed weddings to go ahead.
Long-term prospective marriage visa holders will be eligible for an exemption one year after the date they submitted their visa application.
The change is expected to allow 1600 people to immediately apply to come to Australia.
Texas governor Greg Abbott tested positive for Covid-19 on Tuesday, after weeks spent banning local mask requirements and meeting maskless crowds.
Abbott, a Republican, is fully vaccinated against the virus and is not experiencing symptoms, his office said in a statement. He is taking a monoclonal antibody treatment and isolating in the governor’s mansion.
Spokesperson Mark Miner said: “Governor Abbott is in constant communication with his staff, agency heads and government officials to ensure that state government continues to operate smoothly and efficiently.”
Texas has once again emerged as a hotspot for the coronavirus, with only 314 available intensive care unit beds statewide. Pediatric ICUs are running out of space while children head back to class.
Health officials in Texas said they have asked the federal government for five mortuary trucks, as Covid cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to rise in the state.
Japan extended its state of emergency in Tokyo and other regions to counter a spike in COVID-19 infections, ahead of the Paralympic Games.
The current state of emergency, the fourth of the pandemic so far, was due to expire on 31 August but will now last until 12 September. The emergency will now cover nearly 60% of Japan’s population.
Tokyo announced 4,377 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, after a record 5,773 on Friday.
“The Delta variant raging across the world is causing unprecedented cases in our country,” Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said. “Serious cases are increasing rapidly and severely burdening the medical system, particularly in the capital region.”
Here is the new advert featuring Pope Francis calling for universal access to vaccines and encouraging people to get their jabs as “an act of love”
Covid transmission is surging across a locked-down New South Wales, with the state setting a new daily case record of 633, as well as three deaths, and premier Gladys Berejiklian delivering a bleak warning that “we haven’t seen the worst of it”.
Wednesday’s case numbers are a significant jump on the previous daily case record, set on Monday, when 478 cases were announced.
Children, who not eligible for vaccines, are also driving transmissions in Sydney. Of the new cases, 63 are children aged nine and under, 104 are aged 10 to 19, and 170 are in their 20s. The chief health officer, Kerry Chant, said she was “keen” to see vaccines be approved for children under 16.
Sydney is currently in its eighth week of lockdown.
‘Spreading like a virus’: inside the EU’s struggle to debunk Covid lies
Understaffed and underpowered, a Brussels taskforce tries to fight a fake news tide that threatens to undermine the union itself
In April 2020, near the start of the global pandemic, Felix Kartte was working 14-hour shifts as an EU policy officer, struggling to monitor a barrage of coronavirus-linked disinformation.
Articles claiming that the pandemic was a hoax, that it was caused by 5G, that it could be cured by hydroxychloroquine or alternative medicine were going viral across the continent – part of a global phenomenon the World Health Organization warned was becoming an “infodemic.” Kartte and colleagues in StratCom, the EU diplomatic service’s strategic communications division, could detect what they say were patterns of Covid-denier and anti-vaxxer disinformation linked to Russia and to a lesser extent China, being disseminated in several languages across Europe.
They scrambled to flag the bogus reports on their monitoring database and wrote up internal reports. But problems arose when they produced a public assessment which said China was pushing false narratives to deflect any blame for the pandemic. Believing the report to be finalised, Kartte was surprised when the office of Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, paused its release for rewrites. In the document that was eventually published the criticisms of China appeared to have been softened.
Growing New Zealand Covid cluster linked to Sydney Delta outbreak
New Zealand’s coronavirus cluster has grown to seven, with genomic sequencing linking it to the Delta outbreak that began in Sydney, as the country woke up to day one of a snap lockdown stemming from just one case.
The country went into a snap level four lockdown – the highest level of restrictions – on Tuesday night, after detecting one case with no obvious links to the border. New Zealand has not had a level 4 lockdown in more than a year, and the case is the country’s first instance of Delta transmission in the community.
The prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, warned on Wednesday that there would be more cases given the activity of those infected and that a link to the border had yet to be established, adding “there is more to be done to help piece together this puzzle”.
“Our ability to narrow down that this is a case that is linked to New South Wales outbreak, gives us a lot of leads to chase down as quickly as we can,” she said.
Hello and welcome to the Guardian’s rolling coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.
New Zealand went into a snap one day national lockdown on Tuesday night after a single case of Covid-19 was detected in the country with no obvious links to the border. By Wednesday, the coronavirus cluster had grown to seven, with genomic sequencing linking it to the Delta outbreak that began in Sydney. New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Arden warned the number of cases in the country was likely to rise.
As a fourth wave of infections, driven by the Delta variant, is driving up cases, hospitalisations and deaths in the US, the state of Texas has asked the government for five more mortuary trucks. The Texas governor Greg Abbott, a staunch opponent of masks, tested positive for Covid yesterday.
In the UK, the restaurant Nandos have temporarily closed a 10th of their branches due to Covid-related staff and supply shortages
Here’s a summary of the past 24 hours
- Australia is on track to break its daily coronavirus case record with surging infections and more deaths in New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, fuelling national concern. The state, which is under lockdown, reported a record-breaking 633 new cases in the past 24 hours.
- Thirty-four aged care facilities in New South Wales are currently in the grips of a Covid-19 outbreak
- Qantas airlines will require all of its frontline employees, including cabin crew, pilots and airport workers to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19
- India reported on 35,178 new Covid-19 cases in the last 24 hours, nearly 40% higher than yesterday. Deaths remained low, with 440 reported in the past 24 hours
- Pope Francis has encouraged people to get Covid vaccines in new media campaign. Getting vaccinated against Covid-19 is “an act of love,” Pope Francis says in a public service advert that will start circulating online and on television on Wednesday.
- The International Federation of Red Cross has called for southeast Asian countries to be given more help securing Covid-19 vaccines, as the region struggles to contain record infections and deaths driven by the Delta variant
- New York has become the first US city to require proof of vaccination to enter gyms, theatres and restaurants
- Japan’s government on Tuesday expanded a coronavirus state of emergency to seven more regions as it battles a record wave of infections a week before the Paralympic Games
- The UK has approved the use of the US-made Moderna vaccine for 12 to 17 year olds. The Pfizer jab was given the same approval a few weeks ago.