Coronavirus update: WHO team in China had ‘extensive discussions’ with scientists in Wuhan

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The World Health Organization says a team sent to China for preliminary investigations into the origins of the coronavirus had “extensive discussions” with scientists in Wuhan.

Meanwhile The Philippines records the highest daily case rise yet in all of Southeast Asia as a new lockdown comes into effect.

This story will be updated throughout Wednesday and was last updated at 3:15am

Wednesday’s key moments:

COVID-19 team had ‘extensive discussions’ with scientists in Wuhan, says WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) says a team in China to probe the origins of COVID-19 had “extensive discussions” and exchanges with scientists in Wuhan, where the outbreak was first detected.

The talks included updates on animal health research, WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said on Tuesday.

“The team had extensive discussions with Chinese counterparts and received updates on epidemiological studies, biologic and genetic analysis and animal health research,” Mr Lindmeier told reporters, saying these included video discussions with Wuhan virologists and scientists.

A man in a hazmat suit standing outside a Chinese marketplace
A market in Wuhan appears to have played a role in the initial spread of the coronavirus.(Reuters)

The three-week advance mission comprising two specialists in animal health and epidemiology was tasked with laying the groundwork for a broader team of Chinese and international experts that will seek to discover how the virus that causes COVID-19 jumped the species barrier from animals to humans.

Mr Lindmeier did not provide details on the timing or composition of the broader mission.

Terms of reference for the broader mission have been produced together with Chinese authorities in draft form, he said, and were not yet publicly available.

The results of the WHO investigation are keenly awaited by scientists and governments around the world.

China shut down a wildlife market in Wuhan at the start of the outbreak, a day after discovering some patients were vendors or dealers.

The WHO says the virus most likely came from bats and probably had another, intermediary animal “host”.

Vietnam says new outbreak likely began in early July

People in face masks sit waiting on plastic stools outdoors.
Mass testing is underway in Hanoi following a new coronavirus outbreak in Vietnam.(AP: Hau Dinh)

Vietnam’s recent coronavirus outbreak in the central city of Da Nang, which has led to more than 200 cases and eight deaths, appears to have started early in July, the Government says, amid concern the virus may have been spreading undetected earlier.

“After having conducted antibody tests on 5,000 samples collected from infected patients and their relatives, it can be concluded that the outbreak appears to have started in early July,” said Dang Duc Anh, the director of the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology,

The majority of the new infections have been in Da Nang, but it has spread to at least eight other cities and provinces, including Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, where entertainment venues are closed and gatherings are restricted to prevent infections.

Da Nang and Buon Ma Thuot in the coffee-growing Central Highlands are on lockdowns.

Most of the 28 new cases reported on Tuesday were linked to Da Nang, the health ministry said, adding there were over 133,000 people in quarantine, about 80 per cent of those in their homes.

More than 88,000 people have returned to Hanoi from Da Nang since July 8, but only 70,689 were tested, authorities said, with two positive cases.

The gap is due to a shortage of rapid testing kits used to screen thousands of residents at a time, according to state media.

Poland has record daily rise for fourth time in a week

Two people in PPE stand around a car as one of them examines some paperwork
Poland is considering reinstating restrictions after recording successive days with record numbers of new coronavirus cases.(AP: Czarek Sokolowski)

Poland reported another record daily increase in coronavirus cases on Tuesday.

It is the fourth time in a week the country’s record daily rise was broken.

More than a third of the new cases were in the southern Silesia region, which has been grappling with another outbreak among coal miners.

The latest tally of 680 new infections and six deaths comes as Poland considers introducing stricter restrictions, including mandatory testing for travellers returning to Poland and quarantine for those coming from certain countries.

More than 220 cases were reported in Silesia, where a rapid spread of infections led to a temporary reduction of coal output and work in 12 mines in June.

Last week new cases were detected in three mines, including Chwalowice, which was among those where work was cut back to a minimum in June.

Sanitary services said last week the resurgence of COVID-19 among miners was a result of easing restrictions and of the working conditions in the mines, where it is difficult to enforce social distancing.

Currently 1,043 coal miners are infected, mostly from Poland’s biggest coal producer PGG, data cited by state-run news agency PAP showed on Tuesday.

Philippines back under lockdown as virus cases continue to surge

Two men in fatigues carry a sign saying 'Stop: PNP checkpoint' ahead of a long line of traffic.
The Philippines Government has been forced to lock down the capital of Manila.(AP: Aaron Favila)

Philippine police deployed road blocks on Tuesday to enforce a tough new lockdown on about 28 million people in the capital Manila and nearby provinces as the Southeast Asian country reported the region’s biggest daily rise in coronavirus cases.

The area, which accounts for most economic activity in the country and a quarter of the population, has gone back into lockdown for two weeks after restrictions were relaxed in June.

The eased restrictions, in an effort to revive the economy, led to infections soaring more than six-fold to 112,593 and deaths more than doubling to roughly 2,100, piling pressure on a beleaguered healthcare sector.

The health ministry on Tuesday reported 6,352 new cases, marking the biggest daily jump in infections in Southeast Asia and after posting a record rise in five of the past six days

President Rodrigo Duterte late on Sunday announced the new lockdown, marking a return to the strict quarantine measures in force from mid-March to May.

‘If you don’t go out, you don’t eat’ in Venezuela

A man wearing a face mask walks past a mural of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro
The coronavirus is spreading rapidly in Venezuela which was already struggling economically following years of sanctions and political strife.(AP: Ariana Cubillos)

The largest produce market in Venezuela’s capital, Caracas, is at the centre of a worsening COVID-19 outbreak, but cash-strapped merchants refuse to stop hawking food there for the city’s 5 million residents, many of whom are starving.

Three days a week — down from six before the pandemic — some 10,000 people, including retailers and consumers, pack into the state-run Coche Wholesale Market. On July 29, authorities limited the opening hours of wholesale markets across the capital to between dawn and 2:00pm.

The produce is trucked out to the city’s supermarkets, providing a lifeline amid Venezuela’s six-year economic crisis.

People pay little heed to social distancing though most wear masks.

So far authorities have confirmed 20,206 cases and 174 deaths, though the opposition and medical NGOs warn that testing is insufficient.

President Nicolas Maduro ordered harsh lockdown measures in March which slowed the virus’ spread, but basic goods shortages forced many merchants to return to wholesale markets to make a living.

“If you don’t go out every day you don’t eat,” said Moises Rojas, 23, who sells carrots, potatoes and onions in Coche.

Mr Rojas, one of the market’s 3,500 workers, said on pre-pandemic days he could sell three 45-kilogram sacks of carrots, now, he may sell only 5 kilograms.

ABC/wires

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