Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Kate Mayberry in Kuala Lumpur.
- Mainland China has reported 101 new cases of coronavirus – the highest number in more than three and a half months. Of the new cases, 89 are in the far western region of Xinjiang.
- A $1 trillion coronavirus relief plan is under discussion in the United States Congress, but the only element the Republicans and Democrats can agree on is a one-time payout of $1,200 to all Americans. The country’s death toll – the highest in the world – is closing in on 150,000.
- More than 16.6 million people around the world have been diagnosed with the coronavirus. Some 9.7 million patients have recovered, and nearly 659,000 have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Here are the latest updates:
Wednesday, July 29
02:10 GMT – Hong Kong warns on brink of large outbreak
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam is warning the city is on the brink of a large-scale outbreak of coronavirus.
Strict new measures to curb the spread of the virus came into force on Wednesday with a ban on gatherings of more than two people, the closure of restaurants for all but takeaway and mandatory mask wearing.
Quarantine measures for ship and airline crews have also been tightened.
01:55 GMT – Queensland closing border to people from Sydney area
Annastacia Palaszczuk, the premier of the northern Australian state of Queensland, says the state will be closed to people from the Sydney area from the early hours of Saturday.
Queensland residents returning home will also be required to spend 14 days in hotel quarantine at their own expense.
BREAKING: Queensland will close its borders to all of Greater Sydney. From 1am Saturday, more hotspots will be declared and no one from Sydney will be allowed into Queensland. #COVID19au pic.twitter.com/044iZeTZ1g
— Annastacia Palaszczuk (@AnnastaciaMP) July 29, 2020
01:15 GMT – China reports most new cases since mid-April
China’s National Health Commission has just announced the latest coronavirus data for the country.
It has reported 101 new cases – up from 68 previously – the highest since mid-April.
Of the new cases, 89 were found in the far western region of Xinjiang where mass testing is under way.
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) July 29, 2020
00:30 GMT – Australia deploys emergency response team to nursing homes
The Australian Medical Assistance Team (AUSMAT) has been deployed to nursing homes in Melbourne, which are at the centre of the current coronavirus outbreak in the state of Victoria.
AUSMAT teams are usually sent to disaster zones and include doctors, nurses, paramedics, radiographers and pharmacists.
National Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth told ABC Television there were more than 679 active cases linked to care homes, and that it was crucial to “get these outbreaks under control as quickly as possible”.
Local media says Victoria is likely to announce about 295 cases on Wednesday.
#BREAKING: Victoria is expected to announce just under 295 new coronavirus cases today, the ABC understands.
— ABC News (@abcnews) July 29, 2020
00:00 GMT – Stark divisions in Congress over relief plan
Republicans and Democrats in the United States Congress are divided over a $1 trillion coronavirus aid package that Republicans announced on Monday.
Under the plan, unemployment benefits would be cut to just $200 a week, compared with an expanded $600 a week under earlier relief measures that are due to end on Friday.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has touted the proposal as a “tailored and targeted” plan, which would give many Americans direct payments of $1,200 each, provide billions in loans to small businesses and help schools reopen.
While Democrats agree on the payment, they say the package itself is too limited, and too late. Some Republicans say it is too expensive.
You can read more here.
23:30 GMT (Tuesday) – MSF tells Cepheid to drop price of coronavirus test
The aid group Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF) is urging the US diagnostics firm Cepheid to “refrain from profiteering off of the pandemic” and cut the price of its COVID-19 tests (Xpert Xpress SARS-CoV-2) to $5 per test, from the nearly $20 it currently charges in the world’s poorest countries.
“It is indefensible for Cepheid to profit in this pandemic,” Sharonann Lynch, Senior HIV & TB Advisor for MSF’s Access Campaign, said in a statement. “This is not the time to set the price based on what the market can bear. This critical test must be made accessible to all people who urgently need it at $5 per test to tackle this global health emergency.”
MSF said its research shows the tests could be sold at a profit for $5 each.
“As countries are struggling to deal with suspected COVID-19 cases, having an accurate rapid diagnostic test is essential for real-time management of people affected with the virus, in order to tackle this pandemic,” said Dr Greg Elder, Medical Coordinator for MSF’s Access Campaign. “So many lives could be saved if corporations like Cepheid made their test available urgently and affordably in all countries.”
Cepheid developed the Xpert Xpress SARS-CoV-2 cartridge with $3.7 million in public funding from the US government’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. The test delivers results in less than an hour.
Read all the updates from July 28 (yesterday) here.
Al Jazeera and news agencies