(Reuters) – Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:
Grim forecast for U.S.
Nearly 300,000 Americans could be dead from COVID-19 by Dec. 1, University of Washington health experts forecast, although they said 70,000 lives could be saved if people were scrupulous about wearing masks.
The latest predictions from the university’s widely cited Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) came as top White House infectious disease advisers warned that major U.S. cities could erupt as new coronavirus hot spots if officials there were not vigilant with counter-measures.
“We’re seeing a rollercoaster in the United States. It appears that people are wearing masks and socially distancing more frequently as infections increase, then after a while as infections drop, people let their guard down,” Dr Christopher Murray, director of the IHME, said in announcing the university’s revised forecast.
India cases pass 2 million
India, the country hardest hit in Asia by the pandemic, reported a record daily jump in infections, taking its total number of cases over 2 million. It is the third nation to pass that milestone, after the United States and Brazil.
With infections spreading further to smaller towns and rural areas, experts say the epidemic is likely to be months away from hitting its peak in India, putting more strain on an already overburdened healthcare system.
Since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus an international health emergency in January, Facebook has removed more than 7 million pieces of content with false claims about the virus that could pose an immediate health risk to people who believe them.
The company said that in recent months it had banned such claims as “social distancing does not work” because they pose a risk of “imminent” harm. Facebook took down a video post on Wednesday by U.S. President Donald Trump in which he said that children are “almost immune” to COVID-19.
In most instances, Facebook does not remove misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines that are still under development, according to the company’s vaccine policy lead Jason Hirsch, on the grounds that such claims do not meet the imminent harm threshold. Hirsch told Reuters the company is “grappling” with the dilemma of how to police claims about vaccines.
No ‘false hope’ from UK finance minister
Extending Britain’s furlough scheme would leave some workers trapped in false hope that they could return to their jobs after the coronavirus pandemic, British finance minister Rishi Sunak said.
With redundancies mounting, opposition politicians and think tanks have said Sunak should extend the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – due to expire at the end of October – until the economy is strong enough to support more at-risk workers.
“It’s wrong to keep people trapped in a situation and pretend that there is always a job that they can go back to,” Sunak said.
Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey said on Thursday that some parts of the economy would no longer be viable once the fallout of the pandemic clears – with hospitality and leisure looking especially vulnerable.
Free testing for all in Hong Kong
Hong Kong will offer free voluntary coronavirus testing for residents, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Friday, as the city races to contain a resurgence of the virus over the past month.
The plan, which will enable citywide testing for the first time, is likely to be implemented in two weeks at the earliest, Lam said.
The announcement comes less than a week after China sent a team of health officials to Hong Kong to carry out widespread COVID-19 testing. It is the first time mainland health officials have assisted Hong Kong in its battle to control the virus.
(Compiled by Linda Noakes; Editing by Frances Kerry)