Coronavirus: Latest on COVID-19 from around the world overnight - Sunday, July 18

As Britain prepares for 'Freedom Day', with restrictions on nightclubs and bars set to be lifted, other nations around the world are considering more drastic measures as the highly infectious Delta variant causes case numbers to surge.

Indonesia is now being labelled as the new epicentre of COVID-19 as the South-East Asian nation's fragile health system is overwhelmed by a wave of infections, accelerated by the Delta variant. On Friday, it recorded 54,000 new cases of the virus. The daily death toll is up to 10 times the number seen in early June, but official data is widely believed to be unreliable due to low rates of testing and poor contact tracing.

Thailand officials are also planning to impose further restrictions on travel as the country's COVID-19 death toll hits an all-time high. A nationwide ban on public gatherings has already been imposed as case numbers continue to surge.

Here's the latest on the pandemic from around the world overnight.



Britain has again reported its highest daily total of new COVID-19 cases in six months, recording 54,674 infections on Saturday.

It beats the record high reported the previous day - 51,870 cases - by 2804.

Yet despite the rising case numbers, plans to ease restrictions are going ahead and hospitality venues, such as nightclubs and bars, were busy preparing over the weekend.

Come midnight on Monday (local time), the country's nightclubs are reopening with a bang after 17 months of empty dancefloors. Thousands of young people plan to dance the night away at "Freedom Day" parties as the clock strikes midnight, when almost all restrictions in England are due to be scrapped.

Face masks will no longer be legally required, social distancing rules will be binned, and there will no longer be limits on people attending theatres or big events.

Nightclubs, which have been shuttered since the start of the pandemic, can finally reopen with no restrictions on crowds or requirements for masking and testing.

But while many are jubilant, others are deeply sceptical of the government's decision to go ahead with reopening the economy at a time when daily cases are rapidly surging.

Officials have repeatedly expressed confidence that the country's successful vaccine rollout - which has seen 67.5 percent of adults, or just over half of the total population, receiving both doses - will keep the threat to public health at bay.

But leading international scientists on Friday said England's "Freedom Day" is a threat to the whole world, and 1200 scientists have backed a letter to The Lancet, the medical journal, critical of the move.

Even Prime Minister Boris Johnson's chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, warned that "we could get into trouble again surprisingly fast".

"I can't think of any realistic good scenario to come out of this strategy, I'm afraid," said Julian Tang, a clinical virologist at the University of Leicester. "I think it's really a degree of how bad it's going to be."

Vaccines are not fool-proof, he added, especially not against potential new "super variants" that could surface after allowing people to mix without precautions over the summer.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are taking more cautious steps out of lockdown.


France will reinforce restrictions on unvaccinated travellers from a series of countries to counter a rebound in COVID-19 infections, while opening its doors to those who have received all their shots, Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Saturday.

According to official data, France is in the top five countries to be hardest hit by the pandemic, recording almost six million cases and more than 111,000 deaths. Johns Hopkins University places the country as fourth most-affected, behind the US, India and Brazil.



India on Saturday reported 38,079 new cases of COVID-19 over the last 24 hours, taking the nationwide tally to 31.06 million, health ministry data showed.

India is one of the countries to be hardest hit by the pandemic, with official figures showing 31,064,168 cases since the pandemic began and more than 413,000 COVID-related deaths. It is behind only the US, which has recorded more than 600,000 deaths and more than 34 million cases.


Thailand is planning to impose further restrictions on travel as authorities report record numbers of new cases and COVID-related deaths on Saturday.

Officials are looking to introduce more restrictions on movement as authorities on Saturday reported record numbers of new cases and deaths, despite partial lockdowns in Bangkok and nine other provinces this week.

Officials have already imposed a nationwide ban on public gatherings as they consider further restrictions.  

The country’s COVID-19 task force reported 10,082 new coronavirus cases and 141 new deaths on Saturday, bringing the total number of infections to 391,989 cases and 3,240 fatalities since the pandemic started.


Indonesian officials are evaluating whether to end or extend its restrictions on movement as the country battles a surge of new infections and a crumbling economy, senior minister Luhut Pandjaitan said on Saturday.

According to its official statistics, the south-east Asian nation has recorded more than 72,000 deaths and 2.8 million cases.

Its latest waves of infections is fuelled by the highly contagious Delta variant, which has now become the dominant strain worldwide.

The World Health Organization reported that cases rose 10 percent last week to nearly 3 million, with the highest numbers recorded in Brazil, India, Indonesia and Britain.

Cases crossed the 50,000-mark in Indonesia earlier this week, a whopping 120 percent rise from what was reported at the start of the month.

Skyrocketing infections and deaths have also hammered hospitals in the country of nearly 270 million, which is overtaking India as Asia's COVID-19 epicentre.

On Friday, Indonesia recorded 54,000 new cases of the virus. The daily death toll is up to 10 times the numbers seen in early June, but official data is widely believed to be unreliable due to low rates of testing and poor contact tracing.



Haiti has commenced the public rollout of its first batch of vaccines on Saturday, after the first health workers and senior citizens were vaccinated the day prior.

The Caribbean country recently received 500,000 doses from the United Nations.

Hospital University of Peace is heading the vaccination campaign under the supervision of Haiti's Health Ministry, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) told The Associated Press.

They have been also training other hospitals on how to treat COVID-19 patients. 

Earlier this week, Haiti received its first Moderna vaccine doses as part of a US donation to the COVAX program. 

Haiti has reported more than 19,300 confirmed cases of the virus and more than 480 deaths amid its biggest wave since the pandemic began. 

Experts believe those numbers are widely underreported due to scant testing in Haiti, a nation of more than 11 million people.

PAHO said this week that it was worried about the thousands of Haitians who have lost their homes amid a recent spike in gang violence and are now crammed into crowded shelters, which they said could become "active hot spots" for transmission.

The vaccinations began nearly two months after the government announced a health emergency and imposed a curfew and safety measures. 

In addition, health experts have warned that authorities need to step up educational campaigns amid widespread distrust of both the vaccine and government officials.


A total of 3.5 million doses of Moderna vaccines arrived early on Saturday morning in Argentina from the US on two almost simultaneous flights, in what is so far the largest donation of vaccines in the region, local authorities confirmed. 

Argentine Chief of Staff Santiago Cafiero and US Embassy Charge d'Affaires in Argentina MaryKay Carlson were on the tarmac to mark the moment the vaccines arrived.

Cafiero said that the government is awaiting authorization from the FDA (Foods and Drugs Administration), the highest regulatory body for medicines in the US, to administer this vaccine to those between the ages of 12 and 17. 

Argentina has vaccinated 21.6 million people with a first dose and almost 5.3 million with both doses out of a population of 45 million. 

According to the latest figures, the South American country has reported more than 4.7 million cases of COVID -19, and more than 101,000 people have died from the disease. 


International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach has admitted that organisers are "very well aware of the scepticism" of the Japanese public ahead of the Games, which will officially commence in Tokyo in six days' time.

Speaking to reporters on Saturday, Bach pleaded with the public to be accepting of the athletes and to recognise that they share a common goal in ensuring the Games are safe and secure.

"We are very well aware of the scepticism obviously a number of people have here in Japan. We learn this through the media, who is elaborating on this very diligently," Bach said. 

"Therefore my appeal to the Japanese people [is] to welcome these athletes here for the competition of their lives and to acknowledge that it is not for any price that these athletes are coming. They have the same interest, like the Japanese people, that these Games are safe and secure. And for this they accept and even welcome restrictive measures that make these Olympics Games the most restricted sports event not only in Japan, but in the entire world."

Bach noted that only 15 people have tested positive for the virus on arrival or during screening tests. 

"This is a very low rate of 0.1 percent. It goes without saying that all the concerned people were immediately isolated and this way they do not pose any risks to other participants or to the Japanese population."

On Saturday, it was confirmed that a person had tested positive for COVID-19 at the Tokyo Olympics athletes' village, fuelling concerns around infections at the Games.

Tokyo 2020 chief executive Toshiro Muto confirmed that a visitor from abroad, who is involved in organising the Games, had tested positive. He would not reveal the person's nationality, citing privacy concerns.

The affected official has been placed into a 14-day quarantine.

Reuters / Newshub