(Reuters) – Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:
UK tries to avoid national lockdown
Britain will do everything it can to avoid ordering a second national lockdown because it believes it will do more harm than good to the country, a minister said on Thursday.
As France and Germany ordered new national closures, British Housing Minister Robert Jenrick said the British government’s clear policy was to use the tough local restrictions that were recently imposed on swathes of northern England.
After a lull in the summer, the virus started to spread again in September and an Imperial College study published on Thursday showed cases doubling every nine days, with nearly 100,000 people infected in England each day.
Merkel lashes out at populists
Populists who argue the coronavirus is harmless are dangerous and irresponsible, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday, defending a circuit-break lockdown aimed at slowing the spread of the virus.
“We are in a dramatic situation at the start of the cold season. It affects us all, without exception,” Merkel told the Bundestag lower house of parliament, adding new restrictions to reduce social contact were “necessary and proportionate”.
She said populists who question the seriousness of the crisis were putting lives at risk.
Poland’s total cases top 300,000
Poland reported another daily record of coronavirus infections and deaths on Thursday with new 20,156 cases and 301 deaths related to COVID-19.
The health ministry said the total number of confirmed coronavirus infections had tripled in less than a month, exceeding 300,000.
Government officials have warned infections could rise fast due to massive protests sweeping Poland following a Constitutional Court ruling last Thursday that has introduced a near total ban on abortions.
Hospitals in Wisconsin, Texas under strain
UW Health University Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin, has been rushing to convert available space into units for COVID-19 patients, as the state’s medical facilities struggle to keep pace with new infections.
As part of the effort, the medical centre opened a new intensive care unit this week ahead of schedule, and it is quickly filling with coronavirus patients.
“Today we have more patients than we’ve had ever before,” said Dr. Jeff Pothof, an emergency medicine physician at UW Health. “It’s putting a strain on our capacity. Our biggest concern is ICU staffing.”
Breathalyser gives results in seconds
A company in Singapore has developed a breathalyser test for the new coronavirus which it says will enable people to know whether they are infected in under a minute.
Breathonix, a startup firm from the National University of Singapore, says its test achieved more than 90% accuracy in a pilot clinical trial of 180 people in the city state and hopes to get regulatory approval early next year.
Countries worldwide are looking to develop alternative tests to the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) nasal swab, which is invasive and in short supply in some places where demand has outstripped manufacturers’ production capacity.
(Compiled by Linda Noakes; Editing by Nick Macfie)