(Reuters) – A fresh outbreak of infections in Australia’s coronavirus hot zone of Victoria appeared to have eased on Wednesday, while the country signed a deal to secure a potential COVID-19 vaccine that it intended to roll out free of cost to its citizens.
DEATHS AND INFECTIONS
* For an interactive graphic tracking the global spread, open https://tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser.
* For a U.S.-focused tracker with state-by-state and county map, open https://tmsnrt.rs/2w7hX9T in an external browser.
* Eikon users, see MacroVitals (cpurl://apps.cp./cms/?navid=1592404098) for a case tracker and summary of news.
* England will scrap the government agency responsible for responding to public health emergencies after the country suffered the highest COVID-19 death rate in Europe.
* Ireland significantly tightened its nationwide coronavirus restrictions.
* Poland’s Health Minister Lukasz Szumowski said he was resigning from his post after the ministry faced growing criticism for its handling of the coronavirus crisis.
* The French government plans to make wearing a mask compulsory in the vast majority of workplaces from Sept. 1.
* U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democrats in Congress are willing to cut their coronavirus relief bill in half to get an agreement on new legislation with the White House and Republicans.
* The University of Notre Dame suspended in-person classes and moved them online for at least two weeks after seeing a surge in coronavirus cases.
* The pandemic is causing a mental health crisis in the Americas due to heightened stress and use of drugs and alcohol during six months of lockdowns and stay-at-home measures, the WHO’s regional director said.
* New Zealand said it would increase the number of defence personnel at its quarantine facilities and border to beat any further spread of COVID-19.
* South Korea reported the highest daily rise in coronavirus cases since early March on Wednesday as recent outbreaks from churches around the capital Seoul intensify, prompting authorities’ warning of a nationwide transmission. [L4N2FL0T8]
MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA
* Lebanon’s interior ministry ordered businesses across the country to shut down for two weeks and enforced an overnight curfew from Friday after a rise in infections.
* Namibia’s government is warning its citizens not to trust claims on social media that elephant dung can cure COVID-19, as cases rise more rapidly.
* An increasingly common mutation of the virus found in Europe, North America and parts of Asia may be more infectious but appears less deadly, a prominent infectious diseases doctor said.
* Brazil approved human clinical trials for a potential COVID-19 vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson.
* Asian shares climbed to a seven-month peak tracking the S&P 500, which scaled all-time highs, driven by ever expanding policy stimulus aimed at cushioning the blow to economies from the coronavirus pandemic.
* Japan’s exports extended their double-digit slump into a fifth month in July as the pandemic took a heavy toll on auto shipments to the United States.
* A third of Japanese firms are reassessing using offices after a sharp drop in their use in August from a year ago, as 65% of firms allowed or encouraged employees to work from home, a monthly Reuters poll showed.
(Compiled by Aditya Soni, Devika Syamnath and Linda Pasquini; Editing by Jan Harvey, Shounak Dasgupta and Arun Koyyur)