China rejects WHO plan for second phase of Covid origins inquiry
China has rejected a World Health Organization plan for a second phase of an investigation into the origin of the coronavirus, which includes the hypothesis it could have escaped from a Chinese laboratory, Reuters reports.
The WHO this month proposed a second phase of studies into the causes of the pandemic, including audits of laboratories and markets in the city of Wuhan, calling for transparency from authorities.
But Zeng Yixin, the vice minister of China’s national health commission, said Beijing could not accept a plan which “disregards common sense and defies science”.
Zeng said he was taken aback when he first read the WHO plan because it lists the hypothesis that a Chinese violation of laboratory protocols had caused the virus to leak during research.
“We hope the WHO would seriously review the considerations and suggestions made by Chinese experts and truly treat the origin tracing of the COVID-19 virus as a scientific matter, and get rid of political interference,” Zeng said.
Vaccines soon for under-12s, says Biden
Joe Biden has suggested that his administrsation could soon give approval for vaccinations for children under-12.
Speaking on a national tour to encourage more people to get the vaccine, the US president told a televised town hall in Cincinnati in Ohio that children under 12, who are currently ineligible for the three coronavirus vaccines available in the US, could get shots by August or later in the fall.
Biden said it was “gigantically important” for Americans to get vaccinated and noted that virtually all of the people being hospitalised with Covid had not been vaccinated. It comes as new daily cases have trip[led in the past two weeks to more than 37,000.
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The coronavirus pandemic continues to dog the Tokyo Olympics with only a day to go before the opening ceremony.
Two more athletes have tested positive for the virus in the Olympic village, according to Reuters citing the Games organisers. There are now 12 new positive cases overall, including the two athletes, bringing the total to 87.
The ceremony on Friday night is set to be a subdued affair and was dealt another blow by reports that Shinzo Abe, the former prime minister who did so much to attract the Games to Japan, will not attend. The broadcaster NHK said Abe decided against attending the ceremony after the Japanese government declared a state of emergency and virus restrictions over Tokyo. Abe’s office could not immediately be reached on Thursday, a public holiday in Japan, Reuters said.
Good morning/afternoon/evening wherever you are in the world, and welcome to the Guardian’s live coverage of the coronaviris pandemic.
The main developments in the past few hours are:
- US cases have tripled in the past two weeks as the Delta variant takes hold and vaccinations slow. There were more than 37,000 cases on Tuesday, up from less than 13,700 on 6 July.
- Joe Biden has told Americans it is “gigantically important” that they get vaccinated as he stepped efforts to encourage greater take up of the jab. The president said that children under 12 could soon be approved for vaccination.
- Two more athletes have tested positive for coronavirus in Tokyo’s Olympic village on the eve of the Games’ opening ceremony, according to reports.
- Former Japanese PM Shinzo Abe will not attend Friday’s opening ceremony, media reports said on Thursday.
- Australia’s Olympic chief appeared to tell the Queensland premier that she had to go to the ceremony in Tokyo. Queensland’s capital, Brisbane, has been awarded the 2032 Games but Annastacia Palaszczuk had said she would not attend the ceremony.
- YouTube has removed videos by Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro for spreading misinformation about the pandemic. He has regularly played down the severity of the virus and touted unproven cures.
- China has rejected the WHO’s plan for the second phase of Covid-19 origins study because it contains “language that does not respect science”, the vice head of the health commission, Zeng Yixin, said on Thursday.
- Covid-19 admissions to hospital in England has reached its highest level for nearly five months, with 752 admissions were reported on 19 July. This is a rise of 21% on the previous week, and the highest daily number since 25 February.
- The outbreak in Australia’s most populous state of NSW has worsened with 124 new daily cases, 70 of which were infectious in the community. The state is locked down along with Victoria and South Australia.
- Thailand recorded another record number of new daily cases on Thursday. There 13,655 new infections and 87 deaths. More public spaces will be closed in Bangkok and other high risk areas, including parks.
- Fiji has recorded its highest number of weekly deaths from Covid, including two pregnant women.