Mainland China has reported 101 new cases of the novel coronavirus – the highest in more than three and a half months. Of the new cases, 89 are in the far western region of Xinjiang.
A $1 trillion coronavirus relief plan is under discussion in the US Congress, but the only element the Republicans and Democrats agree on is a one-time payout of $1,200 to all Americans. The country's death toll – the highest in the world – is closing in on 150,000. 
Nearly 16.7 million people around the world have been diagnosed with the new coronavirus. Some 9.7 million patients have recovered, and more than 659,000 have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Here are the latest updates:

Wednesday, July 29
10:00 GMT – UK cancels holidays to Balearics and Canary Islands until August 4

TUI UK said it had cancelled holidays to the Balearics and Canary Islands until August 4 after Britain advised against all non-essential travel to the islands due to its assessment of COVID-19 risks in Spain.

The UK guidance was issued on Monday. On Saturday, Britain had said all travellers from Spain would be subject to a 14-day quarantine due to a spike in new coronavirus cases there.

TUI UK has cancelled all holidays to mainland Spain until August 10, but criticised the blanket British policy for the whole of Spain when the outbreaks have been focused regionally.

TUI UK has cancelled all holidays to mainland Spain until August 10 [AP] 

09:40 GMT – Takeda-led plasma treatment unlikely to meet July goal of trial start

A group led by Takeda Pharmaceutical Co have completed test supplies of a blood plasma treatment for COVID-19, but pending regulator approval will likely prevent clinical trials from meeting a July start date.

The CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance is ready to start shipping vials to study sites once the trial is approved by regulators in the United States, said Julie Kim, president of the plasma-derived therapies unit of Takeda.

The group had originally aimed to begin clinical trials in July. The National Institutes of Health in the U.S. is the trial sponsor, and is looking at study sites around the world, according to Kim, who also serves as co-leader of the alliance.

09:15 GMT – Indonesia reports 2,381 new coronavirus infections

Indonesia reported 2,381 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday, taking the total to 104,432, data from the country's COVID-19 task force showed.

The Southeast Asian nation also reported 74 new COVID-19 related deaths, taking total fatalities to 4,975.

Indonesia reported 74 new COVID-19 related deaths on Wednesday [Reuters] 

08:50 GMT – Hong Kong reports 118 new coronavirus cases 

Hong Kong reported 118 new coronavirus cases, including 113 that were locally transmitted, as strict new measures including a restriction of gatherings to two people and a ban on restaurant dining, took effect.

The measures, which are the toughest introduced since the outbreak, are to last for at least one week as leader Carrie Lam warned the city is on the brink of a large-scale outbreak.

The global financial hub reported 106 new cases on Tuesday. Since late January, about 3,000 people have been infected in Hong Kong, 24 of whom have died.

08:20 GMT – Russia's coronavirus cases near 830,000

Russia reported 5,475 new cases of the novel coronavirus, pushing its national tally to 828,990, the fourth largest in the world.

In the daily readout, officials said 169 people had died in the last 24 hours, pushing the national death toll to 13,673.

In the last 24 hours, 169 people died in Russia, pushing the national death toll to 13,673 [Sefa Karacan/Anadolu] 

07:50 GMT – Britain has no alternative to quarantine yet: minister

Britain does not yet have a viable alternative to imposing a 14-day quarantine on travelers returning from countries deemed to have a high risk of coronavirus, culture minister Oliver Dowden said on Wednesday.

Britain slapped a quarantine order on travelers from Spain at the weekend, sparking chaos for airlines and travel companies at the height of the summer holiday season.

“We cannot risk importing it again from other countries where incidences are rising, that's why we imposed the restrictions on Spain,” he told BBC Radio.

“We are reviewing all options because what we want to do is to minimise the disruption … I have to just caution in respect of testing (at airports), it is not the case that testing provides a silver bullet.”

07:20 GMT – Half of Mumbai's slum residents have had coronavirus: study

Over half the people living in the slums of Mumbai have had the coronavirus, according to a city-commissioned study that raises fresh doubts about India's official case numbers.

Blood tests on 6,936 randomly selected people conducted by Mumbai's city authorities found that 57 percent of slum-dwellers and 16 percent of non-slum residents had virus antibodies.

Mumbai, where about 40 percent of the population lives in slums, has reported just over 110,000 infections and more than 6,000 deaths so far.

The western city of 20 million people is home to India's largest slum Dharavi, where an estimated one million people live.

In Mumbai, it is estimated that 40 percent of the population lives in slums  [AP]

07:00 GMT – India's Hetero wins approval to launch COVID-19 drug favipiravir

India's Hetero Labs Ltd said it received local regulatory approval to launch its version of anti-viral drug favipiravir for the treatment of COVID-19.

The drug, priced at 59 rupees (79 US cents) per tablet, will be available at drug stores from Wednesday, privately held Hetero said.

06:15 GMT – European border closures must be avoided if possible: French minister

The closure of borders between European countries as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic must be avoided as much as possible, French Junior European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune told France Inter radi.

Beaune said that while political responses to the COVID-19 crisis were always prone to change, responses such as European border closures “were to be avoided”.

Hello, this is Umut Uras in Doha taking over from my colleague Kate Mayberry.

05:15 GMT – Sanofi, GSK reach deal to supply UK with COVID-19 vaccine

Sanofi and GSK have reached an agreement with the United Kingdom government to supply as many as 60 million doses of its potential COVID-19 vaccine.

No vaccine has yet been found although many are in development.

The two drug companies expect to start clinical trials of their vaccine in September. It will be developed by combining Sanofi's S-protein COVID-19 antigen with GSK's pandemic adjuvant technology.

05:10 GMT – Vietnam national TV says cases confirmed in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City

Vietnamese government-owned television is reporting that coronavirus cases have been found not only in Hanoi but also in Ho Chi Minh City.

The country had been free of the virus for months, until an outbreak was detected in the central city of Danang at the weekend.

Eight cases were reported there this morning.

URGENT: Health ministry issues notice to trace people who may have come into contact with #COVID19 cases https://t.co/zLTEzf5Ghb pic.twitter.com/NtqpHGgvN4


— Việt Nam News (@VietnamNewsVNS) July 29, 2020

04:15 GMT – Hanoi warned on risk of coronavirus outbreak

The Vietnamese government is warning authorities in Hanoi to prepare for a potential coronavirus outbreak.

The warning follows local media reports that a person working at a pizza restaurant in the capital had tested positive for the virus.

“The city's health department should get ready with materials and equipment needed for the prevention and fight against COVID-19,” the government said in a statement.

Hanoi has a population of about eight million and had not reported a case of coronavirus for months. 

03:10 GMT – Virus behind pandemic has been in bats ‘for decades'

Another interesting study on the evolution of the coronavirus … this time published in Nature.

A group of scientists from around the world who have been tracing the virus's origins say their findings indicate that “the lineage giving rise to the SARS-CoV-2 has been circulating unnoticed in bats for decades”.

Writing on Twitter, award-winning science author Laurie Garrett says the study has a number of significant implications.

BREAKING: Multinational team uses 3 different methods to determine where #SARSCoV2 came from: each leads to horseshoe bats found widely in Asia. The virus now causing a human #pandemic has been in bats “for decades,” only now reaching people.
MORE https://t.co/5Cs2GD49yc


— Laurie Garrett (@Laurie_Garrett) July 29, 2020

In a new study, scientists say the virus behind the COVID-19 pandemic has been circling in bats for decades [File: Menahem Kahana/AFP]

02:40 GMT – Moderna vaccine worked well in monkeys: Study

Moderna's experimental COVID-19 vaccine worked well in monkeys and prevented the virus from replicating in their noses and lungs, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

In the Moderna study, three groups of eight rhesus monkeys received either the vaccine or a placebo at two different dosages. 

All those who were given the vaccine developed high levels of antibodies to attack parts of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Scientists said monkeys that got the vaccine even at the lower dosage produced more antibodies than people who had recovered from the virus, and that it appeared to stimulate an immune response from so-called T-cells.

The study also found that two days after the vaccinated monkeys were exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19 through the nose and directly to the lungs, no replicating virus was found in the lungs of seven of the eight animals regardless of dosage while those that had been given the placebo all still had the virus.

None of the animals given the higher dose of the vaccine had detectable levels of the virus following their exposure.

“This is the first time an experimental COVID-19 vaccine tested in non-human primates has been shown to produce such rapid viral control in the upper airway,” said the National Institutes of Health, which is co-developing the vaccine.

02:10 GMT – Hong Kong warns on brink of large outbreak

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam is warning the city is on the brink of a large-scale outbreak of coronavirus.

Strict new measures to curb the spread of the virus came into force on Wednesday with a ban on gatherings of more than two people, the closure of restaurants for all but takeaway and mandatory mask-wearing.

Quarantine measures for ship and airline crews have also been tightened.

The Star Ferry arrives in Kowloon from Hong Kong Island. Masks are now mandatory in the territory [Anthony Wallace/AFP]

01:55 GMT – Queensland closing border to people from Sydney area

Annastacia Palaszczuk, the premier of the northern Australian state of Queensland, says the state will be closed to people from the Sydney area from the early hours of Saturday.

Queensland residents returning home will also be required to spend 14 days in hotel quarantine at their own expense.

BREAKING: Queensland will close its borders to all of Greater Sydney. From 1am Saturday, more hotspots will be declared and no one from Sydney will be allowed into Queensland. #COVID19au pic.twitter.com/044iZeTZ1g


— Annastacia Palaszczuk (@AnnastaciaMP) July 29, 2020 

01:15 GMT – China reports most new cases since mid-April

China's National Health Commission has just announced the latest coronavirus data for the country.

It has reported 101 new cases – up from 68 previously – the highest since mid-April.

Of the new cases, 89 were found in the far western region of Xinjiang where mass testing is under way.

Chinese mainland reported 101 new confirmed #COVID19 cases (89 in Xinjiang, 8 in Liaoning, 1 in Beijing), and 27 new asymptomatic COVID-19 patients. pic.twitter.com/uOtWITJkho


— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) July 29, 2020

00:30 GMT – Australia deploys emergency response team to nursing homes

The Australian Medical Assistance Team (AUSMAT) has been deployed to nursing homes in Melbourne, which are at the centre of the current coronavirus outbreak in the state of Victoria.

AUSMAT teams are usually sent to disaster zones and include doctors, nurses, paramedics, radiographers and pharmacists.

National Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth told ABC Television there were more than 679 active cases linked to care homes, and that it was crucial to “get these outbreaks under control as quickly as possible”. 

Local media says Victoria is likely to announce about 295 cases on Wednesday.

#BREAKING: Victoria is expected to announce just under 295 new coronavirus cases today, the ABC understands.


— ABC News (@abcnews) July 29, 2020

00:00 GMT – Stark divisions in Congress over relief plan

Republicans and Democrats in the United States Congress are divided over a $1 trillion coronavirus aid package that Republicans announced on Monday.

Under the plan, unemployment benefits would be cut to just $200 a week, compared with an expanded $600 a week under earlier relief measures that are due to end on Friday. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has touted the proposal as a “tailored and targeted” plan, which would give many Americans direct payments of $1,200 each, provide billions in loans to small businesses and help schools reopen.

While Democrats agree on the payment, they say the package itself is too limited, and too late. Some Republicans say it is too expensive.

You can read more here.

Democrats and Republicans in the US Congress are divided over a new coronavirus relief plan [Tom Brenner/Reuters] 

23:30 GMT (Tuesday) – MSF tells Cepheid to drop price of coronavirus test

The aid group Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF) is urging the US diagnostics firm Cepheid to “refrain from profiteering off of the pandemic” and cut the price of its COVID-19 tests (Xpert Xpress SARS-CoV-2) to $5 per test, from the nearly $20 it currently charges in the world's poorest countries.

“It is indefensible for Cepheid to profit in this pandemic,” Sharonann Lynch, senior HIV & TB adviser for MSF's Access Campaign, said in a statement. “This is not the time to set the price based on what the market can bear. This critical test must be made accessible to all people who urgently need it at $5 per test to tackle this global health emergency.”

MSF said its research shows the tests could be sold at a profit for $5 each.

“As countries are struggling to deal with suspected COVID-19 cases, having an accurate rapid diagnostic test is essential for real-time management of people affected with the virus, in order to tackle this pandemic,” said Dr Greg Elder, Medical Coordinator for MSF's Access Campaign. “So many lives could be saved if corporations like Cepheid made their test available urgently and affordably in all countries.”

Cepheid developed the Xpert Xpress SARS-CoV-2 cartridge with $3.7 million in public funding from the US government's Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. The test delivers results in less than an hour.

—-

Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera's continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I'm Kate Mayberry in Kuala Lumpur.

Read all the updates from July 28 (yesterday) here.





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