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UK has Europe’s worst surge in deaths during pandemic, study says

LONDON — England has had the greatest rate of excess deaths of any country in Europe during the coronavirus pandemic, with a surge that lasted longer and spread to more places than those in hard-hit nations like Italy and Spain, according to a government report released Thursday.

The findings, in a report by Britain’s Office of National Statistics, painted a bleak picture of how Britain — and England in particular — weathered the first wave of the pandemic. They came as Prime Minister Boris Johnson spotlighted the struggles of other countries in controlling new infections by moving to put more of them under a travel quarantine.


When Britain’s death toll from the virus first surpassed those of other European countries in May, Johnson argued that country-to-country comparisons were invidious because governments collect and analyze data differently.

But the statistics office said it avoided those pitfalls by examining mortality rates across Europe from all causes — not just those attributed to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus — from January to June, and then comparing them to average figures from 2015 to 2019.

That takes into account COVID-19 deaths that were not labeled as such, and deaths indirectly related to the pandemic. Demographers believe tracking excess mortality is the most accurate gauge of deaths during the pandemic.

There are some major holes in the data, not least a lack of statistics from Germany, Western Europe’s most populous country and one that has performed better than most in keeping down infections and fatalities. The report also does not provide raw numbers of excess deaths for each country, but rather a relative measure of the rate of deaths above the historical average, adjusted for factors like age differences.

The statistics office has separately estimated that the United Kingdom suffered 55,763 excess deaths from March 14, when the virus began circulating in the country, through July 17.


New York Times

India records over 50,000 cases in 1 day for first time

India reported more than 50,000 cases for the first time in 24 hours on Thursday, taking the national total to 1,583,792.

The number of recoveries from the coronavirus also crossed 1 million as the recovery rate of 64.4 percent continues to improve. The Health Ministry reported another 775 deaths, driving total fatalities to 34,968.

India has the world’s third-highest caseload after the United States and Brazil. The reported deaths in India, however, mark a far lower fatality rate at 2.23 percent than in the other two countries.

Associated Press

Livestock prices tax Muslims in Africa ahead of Eid holiday

DAKAR, Senegal — Even in the best of times, many Muslims scramble to afford a sheep to slaughter on Eid al-Adha, a display of faith that can amount to an entire month’s income. Now, the financial pressures brought on by the coronavirus pandemic are straining families across Africa even more as they prepare for the Islamic holy day.

From Morocco to Senegal to Nigeria, the important religious tradition of purchasing a ram is simply beyond financial reach for some this year. And even those who can afford a sheep are getting smaller ones since prices in some parts of the continent have doubled compared with last year.

As families cut back, hawkers who sell fancy carving knife sets to drivers stuck in traffic also are doing less business for Eid al-Adha, which will be observed Friday. The tailors who sew elaborate holiday boubous and vendors who sell barbecue grills by roadsides are hurting, too.


During Eid al-Adha, or the festival of sacrifice, Muslims commemorate the prophet Ibrahim’s test of faith by slaughtering livestock and animals and distributing the meat to the poor. It’s also a time when families gather to prepare and enjoy a large feast, and many typically shell out for new outfits for the whole family.

Associated Press

Australian state mandates masks as virus cases soar

MELBOURNE — Australia’s coronavirus hot spot, Victoria state, will make masks compulsory statewide after reporting a record 723 new cases on Thursday.

Masks have been mandatory in the state capital, Melbourne, and a neighboring semirural district for the past week. Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said the measure will be extended starting Sunday.

Residents around the city of Geelong will not be allowed to have visitors in their homes from late Thursday.

The 723 new cases and a daily record 13 deaths exceeded the previous record of 532 cases on Monday.

Melbourne and neighboring Mitchell Shire are halfway through a six-week shutdown, which Andrews said could be extended.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the weekslong lockdown was not giving the desired results. He said the additional restrictions, while necessary, will come at an impact to the economy. ‘‘But equally not containing these outbreaks will have that effect also,” he said.

Associated Press

UN urges Southeast Asia to build back better from crisis

BANGKOK — The United Nations advised Southeast Asian nations to tackle inequality and green their economies to build a more resilient and inclusive future as they strive to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.


The policy report released Thursday said other critical missions for the region’s governments should be bridging the digital divide and upholding human rights and good governance practices.

“One pathway could lead to a prolonged, deep recession, exacerbated by closed borders and characterized by rising social tensions, vulnerabilities and a return to environmentally unsustainable development,” the report said. “The second pathway involves adopting globally and regionally coordinated policies that recognize the imperative of an inclusive, resilient and sustainable approach to development.”

It said the pandemic has highlighted problems in Southeast Asia despite the region’s strong economic performance before the pandemic hit. It cited high inequality, low social protections, a large informal working sector, regressions in justice and governance, and environmental concerns like biodiversity loss and air quality.

“The current situation is leading to recession and social tensions,” UN Secretary General António Guterres said in a video accompanying the report.

Associated Press

Brazil first lady, another Cabinet minister infected

BRASILIA — Brazil’s first lady and a fifth member of President Jair Bolsonaro’s Cabinet have tested positive for the coronavirus, officials said Thursday.

Science and Technology Minister Marcos Pontes wrote on Twitter that he tested positive after experiencing flu-like symptoms and headache. The 57-year-old is now in isolation. The presidency’s press office said in a statement later that Michelle Bolsonaro, 38, also tested positive.

The statement said she appeared to be in good health but would follow established protocols.

President Bolsonaro told reporters on July 7 he had been diagnosed with the coronavirus and was then confined to the presidential palace in the capital for more than two weeks.


He announced he tested negative on Saturday and participated in his first public event on Wednesday, to recognize rural women workers, along with his wife.

Last week, Citizenship Minister Onyx Lorenzoni and Education Minister Milton Ribeiro announced they tested positive. In March, two other Cabinet members were infected.

Associated Press