(Reuters) – Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:
France says it must move fast
French Prime Minister Jean Castex said the government must move fast to head off a deadly new wave of the novel coronavirus as its reproduction level has jumped, with infections surging in the Paris region and among young people.
France’s COVID-19 reproduction “R” number is now 1.4, Castex told a news briefing, indicating that the overall epidemic is growing.
“The virus is spreading all over the country,” he said. “The spread of the epidemic can be exponential if we do not react quickly.”
Grandparents are being told not to pick up their grandchildren from school as the government is worried about hospitals being overwhelmed.
A handshake and a dearth of masks
When U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and President Donald Trump greeted supporters at an outdoor venue on Wednesday night for the Republican National Convention, there were few masks in sight – and Pence exchanged at least one handshake.
The scene provided a stark contrast to last week’s nearly all-virtual Democratic convention, when Joe Biden and Kamala Harris scrapped plans to travel to Wisconsin because of the coronavirus and instead delivered speeches in a mostly empty event center.
Harris on Wednesday criticized the Republican president for politicizing the pandemic.
“The idea that Trump would make this a partisan issue is outrageous. It’s unbelievable, right? You wear a mask if you’re a Democrat, you don’t wear a mask if you’re a Republican?” she said at a fundraising event.
South Korea probes virus outbreak in apartment block
South Korea is investigating a new coronavirus outbreak among about 28 people in an apartment block in Seoul, the capital, as it reported the biggest daily rise in infections since March.
City officials planned to test 500 residents at a temporary site in front of the block and sent a team of specialists to investigate how people on five different floors got infected, an official said.
About 28 of 436 people tested had the virus, with eight of them living in apartments right above one another.
Authorities have urged businesses to get employees to work from home, fearing the risk of outbreaks in crowded places, such as at a call centre in March and a logistics centre in June.
Abbott gets OK for $5 rapid test
Abbott Laboratories said it has won U.S. marketing authorization for a portable coronavirus antigen test that can deliver results in 15 minutes and will sell for $5.
The test is about the size of a credit card, requires no additional equipment to operate, and can be conducted using a less invasive nasal swab than traditional lab tests.
Abbott expects to ship tens of millions of tests in September, ramping up to 50 million a month from the beginning of October.
Antigen tests are cheaper and faster than molecular diagnostic tests but somewhat more likely to fail to identify positive cases of the virus than lab-based diagnostic tests.
Cash help for self-isolaters
Britain will pay low-income people to self-isolate if they have confirmed or suspected coronavirus as the government steps up measures to keep the virus under control.
The new policy comes after opposition politicians called on the government to introduce the payments amid concern that some people who cannot afford to take time off work were not complying with the health advice.
The government said individuals who test positive for the virus will get 130 pounds ($172) for their 10-day period of self-isolation. Other members of their household, who have to self-isolate for 14 days, will be entitled to 182 pounds.
(Compiled by Linda Noakes)