Global coronavirus cases exceed 15 million: Reuters tally

By Jane Wardell and Gayle Issa

SYDNEY/LONDON (Reuters) – Global coronavirus infections surged past 15 million on Wednesday, according to a Reuters tally, with the pandemic gathering pace even as countries remain divided in their response to the crisis.

In the United States, which has the highest number of cases in the world with 3.91 million infections, President Donald Trump warned: “It will probably, unfortunately, get worse before it gets better.”

The top five countries with the most cases is rounded out by Brazil, India, Russia and South Africa. But, the Reuters tally shows the disease is accelerating the fastest in the Americas, which account for more than half the world’s infections and half its deaths.

Globally, the rate of new infections shows no sign of slowing, according to the Reuters tally, based on official reports.

After the first COVID-19 case was reported in Wuhan, China, in early January, it took about 15 weeks to reach 2 million cases. By contrast, it took just eight days to climb above 15 million from the 13 million reached on July 13.

Health experts stress that official data almost certainly under-reports both infections and deaths, particularly in countries with limited testing capacity.

The official number of coronavirus cases at 15,009,213 is at least triple the number of severe influenza illnesses recorded annually, according to World Health Organization data, while the death toll of more than 616,000 in seven months is close to the upper range of yearly influenza deaths.


With the first wave of the virus still to peak in several countries and a resurgence of case numbers in others, some countries are reintroducing strict social distancing measures while others relax restrictions.

Stung by low approval ratings for his handling of the epidemic and downplaying the risks during the early stages, Trump made a significant shift in rhetoric on Tuesday, encouraging Americans to wear a face mask.

While the epidemic worsened in the United States, Trump’s focus ahead of a presidential election in November has been on reopening the economy, and governors in the hard-hit states of Texas, Florida and Georgia continue to push back hard against calls for stricter restrictions.

In Brazil, more than 2.15 million people have tested positive including President Jair Bolsonaro, and more than 81,000 people have died. While Bolsonaro has played down the outbreak, its scale has made Brazil a prime testing ground for potential vaccines.

India, the only other country with more than 1 million cases, reported almost 40,000 new cases on Wednesday. Having been keen to reopen its economy, India is now facing the twin challenge of combating the pandemic and massive flooding in the country’s northeast.

Two ministers in South Africa’s cabinet were admitted to hospital with COVID-19, as Africa’s most-industrialized country counted a total 372,628 confirmed cases and 5,173 deaths.

Other countries are reintroducing restrictions in response to fresh outbreaks.

In Spain, the number of people allowed on Barcelona’s beaches was limited after crowds flocked to the seaside over the weekend despite advice to stay home.

In Australia, residents of Melbourne, the country’s second biggest city, were ordered to wear masks in public from Wednesday after the country reported a record 501 new cases.

Officials in Canada were closely watching a spike in cases as the economy reopens, attributing the rise in part to large numbers of young people gathering in bars.

China, meanwhile, announced that passengers on inbound flights must provide negative COVID-19 test results before boarding, as authorities seek to reduce the risk of imported cases amid increased international travel.

(Reporting By Jane Wardell and Gayle Issa; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

Catholic bishops in Australia reject compulsory abuse reporting, defying new laws

Archbishop Mark Coleridge, President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference in Australia, speaks as Sister Monica Cavanagh, President of Catholic Religious Australia, listens during a media conference in Sydney, Australia, August 31, 2018. REUTERS/David Gray

By Byron Kaye and Colin Packham

SYDNEY (Reuters) – The Catholic church in Australia said on Friday it would oppose laws forcing priests to report child abuse when they learn about it in the confessional, setting the stage for a showdown between the country’s biggest religion and the government.

Pope Francis, leader of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics, is facing sexual abuse crises in several countries and the stance taken by the Australian bishops reflected the abiding, powerful influence conservatives in the church.

Visiting Ireland earlier this week, Pope Francis begged forgiveness for the multitude of abuses suffered by victims in Ireland, and he has promised no more cover-ups.

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC), the country’s top Catholic body, said it did not accept a recommendation from an official inquiry which would force priests by law to report abuse to the police when they hear about it in confession.

Two of Australia’s eight states and territories have since introduced laws making it a crime for priests to withhold information about abuse heard in the confessional, while the others have said they are considering their response.

“This proposed law is ill-conceived, and impracticable, it won’t make children safer, and it will most likely undermine religious freedom,” ACBC President Mark Coleridge told reporters in Sydney, referring to the sanctity of the confessional.

The seal of confession was “a non-negotiable element of our religious life and embodies an understanding of the believer and God”, Coleridge added.

Twenty-two percent of Australians are catholic and the move sets up a rare schism between the church and the government, in a country that adheres to a secular constitution.

Andrew Singleton, professor of philosophy at Deakin University in the state of Victoria, said the bishops’ response reflected a disconnect in Australia between religious and secular sensibilities.

“Their stance is the classic tension between canon law, and their sense that there is some sort of higher, transcendent entity, and common law,” Singleton said.

Last year, Australia ended a five-year government inquiry into child sex abuse in churches and other institutions, amid allegations worldwide that churches had protected pedophile priests by moving them from parish to parish.

The inquiry heard seven percent of Catholic priests in Australia between 1950 and 2010 had been accused of child sex crimes and nearly 1,100 people had filed child sexual assault claims against the Anglican Church over 35 years.

Accusations of cover-ups in the church have reverberated all the way to Pope Francis, who has been accused by a United States archbishop of knowing for years about sexual misconduct by an American cardinal and doing nothing about it.


The ACBC’s opposition runs against laws which take effect in South Australia, the country’s fifth-biggest state, in October, and in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) from April 2019.

Representatives of the attorneys general of South Australia and ACT were not immediately available for comment.

Larger New South Wales and Victoria states have said they are considering the recommendation, while Western Australia has promised a similar law. Queensland, the third-largest state, has never exempted priests from mandatory reporting of abuse.

The stance taken by the Australian bishops also runs against the position taken by their church’s chief adviser on child abuse complaint handling, Francis Sullivan, who said in 2017 that “priests, like everybody else, will be expected to obey the law or suffer the consequences”.

Sullivan was unavailable for comment on Friday.

Clare Leaney, CEO of In Good Faith Foundation, a victim support group, described the bishops’ decision as “more of the same”.

“I’ve spoken to a number of survivors … who said they were actually quite disappointed,” Leaney said.

“We are aware of at least one instance where the confession has been misused.”

The ACBC report came two weeks after a former Australian archbishop became the most senior Catholic cleric in the world to be convicted of concealing abuse, and was ordered to serve a one-year prison sentence at home.

The convicted former archbishop of Adelaide, Philip Wilson, himself a former ACBC president, was found to have failed to report child abuse outside the confessional. He filed an appeal against his conviction on Thursday.

Australia’s former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull had been scheduled to deliver a rare public apology to victims of sexual abuse on Oct. 22 but he was ousted by his party earlier this month.

(Reporting by Byron Kaye and Colin Packham; Editing by Michael Perry & Simon Cameron-Moore)

Powerful Cyclone Aimed At Australia

A tropical cyclone is bearing down on Australia.

Tropical Cyclone Ita is expected to make landfall in northeast Australia.  The storm is the equivalent of a strong Category 4 hurricane according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center.

However, forecasters say the storm will strengthen before landfall and be a Category 5 severe tropical cyclone.

The storm is expected to have such intense winds and rain by the time it makes landfall that forecasters are warning of strong storm surges that could cause serious damage to coastal areas.

The Australia Bureau of Meteorology believes that Cooktown will bear the brunt of the storm’s landfall and then the storm will turn south.

Flu Shot Makes Girl Fall Asleep 30 Times A Day

A 15-year-old Australian girl is suffering from a rare form of narcolepsy after receiving a flu shot.

Chloe Glasson is one of 100 people confirmed worldwide to develop narcolepsy after being injected with the anti-swine flu vaccination Pandemrix.

“She has gone from being a bright, outgoing girl to one who cannot go out on her own,” Chloe’s mother, Rebecca Glasson, told News Limited. “She doesn’t doze for more than a couple of hours at a time, but she can have disturbing dreams.”

GlaxoSmithKline, manufacturer of Pandemrix, said they are researching why their drug is causing narcolepsy in some patients. GSK said they hope their ongoing research will provide more answers.

The CDC recommends flu shots for anyone older than 6 months.

Weather Threatens To Be Worst Australian Firefighters Have Seen

Authorities trying to stop the out of control bushfires threatening New South Wales Australia have doubled the amount of men on the front lines to 3,000.

But the biggest threat is coming outside the flames for the brave firefighters.

Forecasters are calling for excessively high heat, very low humidity and high winds that threaten to accelerate the growth of the fires. The head of the Rural Fire Service told the BBC that the conditions facing firefighters on Wednesday will be “as bad as it gets.”

“It’s going to be a horror day in terms of the weather,” Blue Mountains Mayor Mark Greenhill said. “Could be a horror day in terms of the fire.”

A total of 59 fires are burning in the state of New South Wales and the number of fires deemed “uncontrolled” has risen from 13 to 19 in the last 24 hours.

Fire officials have stated on television and radio that any resident near the fires should leave not only for their safety but to stop them from hampering the efforts of firefighters to save towns.

Australian Firefighters Deliberately Merge Major Bushfires

In a drastic attempt to control the bushfires burning toward their nation’s largest city, Australian firefighters have deliberately caused two of the biggest fires to merge.

The back burning operations near the Blue Mountains in New South Wales state were done with the expectation that weather conditions will continue to deteriorate and hamper efforts to control the flames. Currently 60 bushfires are burning in the area with 13 completely uncontained.

New South Wales Rural Fire Services Commissioner Shame Fitzsimmons told the BBC the joining of two fires at State Mine and Mount Victoria were done to keep the fires from joining with a third fire.

“We are seeing positive results of these very deliberate, very targeted, very decisive strategies being deployed particularly in relation to back-burning operations,” Fitzsimmons said. Over 1,500 firefighters are now on the scene fighting the blazes.

Parts of Sydney, the nation’s largest city, have been covered in a smoky haze for much of the week and air quality has been at dangerous levels. One man has died as a result of the flames and thousands have either fled their homes or are preparing for an evacuation if the flames continue to move toward the city.

Police say they have been able to determine that two of the bushfires were started by an 11-year-old boy.

Australian Wildfires Could Reach Sydney

Uncontrolled wildfires continue to rage across Australia and officials say there is a chance the flames could threaten the country’s largest city.

The government of New South Wales, the largest state in Australia, declared a state of emergency as forecasters are calling for high winds and temperatures to continue. The early start for the Australian bushfire season has already killed one person and have caused thousands to flee their homes and property.

While cooler weather had allowed firefighters to get the total amount of blazes down to 60 by Thursday, rural fire service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said the conditions are rapidly deteriorating. Other officials told the BBC that these fires are the biggest threat they’ve seen in over 40 years.

The Blue Mountains and Hawksbury communities west and north of Sydney are facing “unparalleled risk” according to local officials and embers from the flames have jumped the Nepean River from the foot of the mountains near Sydney’s suburban outskirts.

Police are preparing for mandatory evacuations.

“At the end of the day we hope to have buildings standing,” state police commissioner Alan Clarke told the London Daily Telegraph, “but if we don’t have buildings standing we don’t want bodies in them.”

Record Australian Heat Feeds Bushfires

Sydney, Australia set another temperature record on Friday reaching 115 degrees as a massive heat wave continues to feed bushfires across the continent. Some regions outside the city reported temperatures higher than Sydney.

One man died from being caught by a bushfire fed by dried vegetation due to the drought and heat wave. State police found the man’s body inside his burned out vehicle. They speculate he was trying to flee the flames. Continue reading