COVID-19: What you need to know right now

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India leads global rise in new weekly cases

India reported the most new COVID-19 cases of any country in the past week, its nearly half a million fresh infections pushing the global tally up by 1 percent, the World Health Organization (WHO) said.

Overall global new deaths in the past seven days fell by 3% compared to the previous week, the WHO reported, adding that overall new infections around the world rose by 1.8 million.

The respiratory disease is also spreading in the Americas, which continues to account for more than half of reported cases and deaths worldwide, although there have been slight decreases in some areas, WHO said in its latest update.

Peru, Mexico, Colombia and Argentina have seen “increasing trends”, it said.

Text books and face masks

Tens of millions of pupils returned to school across Europe, their rucksacks loaded with exercise books, geometry sets and, for many, face masks to protect them from the resurgent coronavirus pandemic.

Hand cleansing stations, social distancing and staggered play time will become the new normal as countries seek ways to get children back into the classroom safely and their economies functioning once again.

But they do so at a time when infections rates are spiralling upwards across the continent and there are widespread concerns that the return to schools and offices, the autumn flu season and excess mortality in winter could drive a second wave.

Hong Kong begins China-led mass testing

Hong Kong began free coronavirus testing for all residents in the Asian financial hub, as the mainland Chinese-led initiative faced scepticism from the city’s medical community and public, with some activists urging a boycott.

The initiative began with a 60-strong mainland team conducting tests. It is the first direct help from China’s health officials for the semi-autonomous city as it battles the pandemic.

The scheme has emerged as a politically charged issue, with authorities in Hong Kong and China saying critics are trying to smear the central government.

AstraZeneca bolsters vaccine supply

AstraZeneca has expanded its agreement with cell therapy firm Oxford Biomedica to mass-produce its COVID-19 potential vaccine, as it looks to scale-up supply ahead of a possible U.S. fast-track approval.

AZD1222 is among the leading candidates in the global race for a successful vaccine and it has entered late-stage trials in the United States, the British drugmaker said, as it targets 3 billion doses of the vaccine, globally.

Medical waste spills into Indonesian river

For residents along Indonesia’s Cisadane River, the coronavirus has brought not just deadly disease, but also a deluge of medical waste: a constant stream of syringes, masks and hazmat suits floating by.

As the virus has spread, medical waste had been piling up at Tangerang’s Cipeucang landfill. Then in May its walls collapsed, sending tons of garbage straight into the Cisadane’s khaki green waters.

“I still worry to be honest, but I have to wash here,” resident Eka Purwanti, 36, told Reuters, as she did her laundry in the river, and children played on the bank.

Indonesia’s health ministry acknowledged the problem – saying 1,480 tons of COVID-19 medical waste was produced across the country from March through June – and admitted it lacked treatment facilities, but was working on solutions.

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