Rarely can there have been a more low-key beginning to the cricket season in Australia. It’s usually a time of optimism as spring blooms and sports grounds are transformed from hosting football codes of different types into cricket ovals.

But of course 2020 is different and, as Australia’s Megan Schutt explains here, it’s all a bit surreal knowing that the teams have to put on a big show despite the lack of ceremony or razzamatazz in the Covid-era.

A team of 15 dogs and 10 instructors are being trained for the job in Finland by volunteers, sponsored by a private veterinary clinic.

“What we’ve seen in our research is that the dogs will find (the disease) five days before they (patients) get any clinical symptoms,” Anna Hielm-Bjorkman, who is Adjunct Professor at the University of Helsinki and specialised in clinical research for companion animals.

“They are very good (at it). We come close to 100-percent sensitivity,” she said, referring to the dogs’s ability to detect cases of the virus.

The dogs’ efficiency has not been proven in comparative scientific studies so passengers who volunteer to be tested and are suspected as carrying the virus are instructed to also take a swab to confirm the result.

In the canine test, a passenger swipes their neck with a gauze, places it in a can which is then handed over to another room for a dog to sniff and to deliver an immediate result.

Indonesia reports record daily rise in cases as deaths top 10,000

Indonesia has recorded its biggest daily rise of coronavirus infections with 4,634 new cases, Reuters reports, bringing the total number to 262,022.

It was the second day in a row posting a record increase in cases. Data from the country’s health ministry also added 128 deaths, bringing the total to 10,105.

Slovakia, which has one of Europe’s lowest death tolls from the novel coronavirus, has reported its highest daily tally of Covid-19 cases for a second day in a row, registering 360 positive tests in the previous day.

Since the start of the pandemic in March, Slovakia has recorded 7,629 cases, from which 3,978 patients had recovered and 41 deaths have been reported. The country has faced a rise in cases this month although at a lower per capita rate than other countries in Europe.

The Philippines’ health ministry has reported 2,180 new coronavirus infections and 36 additional deaths.

In a bulletin, the ministry said total number of confirmed cases had increased to 296,755, still the highest in south-east Asia, while deaths had reached 5,127, nearly half of which were recorded in the past 30 days.

Israel has still not published its full list of how it will tighten its lockdown. However, local media are reporting the following measures might be adopted on Friday:

  • Nearly all public transportation will be closed.
  • Fewer businesses will be allowed to operate.
  • Special education facilities that had remained open will be shut.
  • Protests will be limited to groups of up to 20 people, and Israelis will no longer be allowed to travel more than 1km from home to participate in one. The prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has faced months of demonstrations.
  • Synagogues will be shut but allowed to open on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year in Judaism.
  • The country’s main airport, Ben-Gurion international, will stop all departures.
  • The stricter lockdown will last until the end of the Jewish High Holidays on 11 October. Netanyahu has said he chose to enforce the restrictions over the holiday period to lessen the impact on businesses, as many would normally be closed.

“We reached a decision to pull the handbrake,” deputy health minister Yoav Kisch said on Israel Radio about the cabinet decision.

Having imposed a three-week lockdown on Friday, Israel infection rates have surged. On Wednesday, the health minister reported close to 7,000 new virus cases, more than double the number of daily cases compared with the beginning of the month.

Russia reports highest daily rise in cases since 12 July

Russia has reported 6,595 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, its highest daily increase since 12 July.

The authorities said 149 more people had died, bringing the official death toll to 19,948.

The new figures pushed Russia’s national tally of cases to 1,128,836, the fourth largest in the world.

In Finland, authorities have warned of an “alarming” resurgence of Covid-19 after cases doubled over the course of a month.

While Finland has a far lower infection rate than most European countries – 15.5 cases per 100,000 people – the country’s ministry of social affairs and health has warned that the disease is expanding again more rapidly.

The number of new cases over the latest two weeks until Sunday doubled to 798 from 387 in the previous two weeks.

This is useful by the PA Media news agency. As Britain adapts to new restrictions designed to combat a second wave of the coronavirus, this is how some other countries have handled a resurgence of Covid-19.

France: Aiming to avoid a new national lockdown, the French government moved in July to make face masks compulsory in enclosed public spaces. In Paris, anyone aged 11 and older must wear a mask in public. Other cities have followed that lead, including Lille, Nice and Toulouse. Masks must also be worn in most workplaces.

Spain: The Spanish government has also cracked down on the use of masks, with face coverings mandatory for anyone older than six on all forms of public transport and in most indoor areas. Most parts of Spain have enforced the wearing of masks outside as well. Children are also being asked to wear masks at school.

Denmark: After relatively few cases early on, Covid-19 began to rise in Denmark in August, prompting guidance to make face masks on public transport mandatory. Bars, restaurants and nightclubs must close by 10pm. The same curfew is applied to private parties, including wedding receptions.

Belgium: The country has had to put on hold plans for widespread reopenings. Face masks are compulsory in all public areas. Nightclubs remain closed, major events including festivals are still not allowed, and while fans are permitted back into football games, it is at a limited capacity only.

Italy: With the virus resurgence, authorities ordered all nightclubs and dance halls to close. A face mask rule has been brought in, but has drawn widespread criticism, if not ridicule. In all public spaces in Italy where social distancing is not possible, people must wear face coverings – but only between the hours of 6pm and 6am. Meanwhile, schools have reopened, despite officials in many regions calling the step premature.

Fewer than 10,000 new Covid-19 cases a day in UK, says health secretary

The UK health secretary, Matt Hancock, has said fewer than 10,000 people a day are estimated to be contracting Covid-19 in the UK.

Britain reported 6,178 new daily cases of Covid-19 on Wednesday, which is a similar level to the number during the first peak earlier this year. However, far more people are now being tested for the disease so the two figures are not directly comparable.

Appearing on Sky News, Hancock said:

(At the peak), we estimate through surveys that over 100,000 people a day were catching disease, but we only found around 6,000 of them, and they tested positive. Now we estimate that it’s under 10,000 people a day getting the disease. That’s too high, but it’s still much lower than in the peak.

Hancock also said the proportion of people getting a so-called false positive test result is below 1%.

Good morning from the UK. It’s Josh Halliday in Manchester, England, to guide you through the next few hours of global pandemic news. First, a look at today’s UK headlines.

The front pages are dominated by the multi-billion pound economic package set to be outlined by the UK chancellor Rishi Sunak later today. His statement in the House of Commons will start at 12.30pm GMT.

A fraught 48 hours after the UK prime minister Boris Johnson announced new coronavirus restrictions that may last another six months, Sunak is expected to announce a package of employment support to replace the furlough scheme that is being withdrawn next month. My colleagues Larry Elliott and Richard Partington look at what might be announced 


That’s it from me today. My colleague Josh Halliday will be taking over the reins now. Thanks for reading but if you’re just joining us, here are the main developments over the last few hours:

Global deaths from the coronavirus have passed 975,000, according to figures from the Johns Hopkins University tracker. The number of confirmed cases is almost 31.8 million.

Excess deaths in private homes in the UK have reached 10,000 since June, indicating that many people have been reluctant to take their loved ones to hospital months after the peak of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Israel’s cabinet has agreed to a tightening of its second national lockdown in a bid to stem a steep rise in cases. Businesses will face more curbs on operation times from Friday and people will no longer be able to attend street protests as part of travel curbs.

Stock markets have suffered heavy losses amid concerns about the ability of the global economy to recover from the pandemic. Shares in Asia Pacific are down 2% after more losses on Wall Street on Wednesday. The FTSE is set to drop 1.15% when it opens in about 75 minutes.

The NHS Covid contact-tracing app is being launched in England and Wales on Thursday. But take-up could be as low as 10% in some places, government sources believe.

Victoria, the epicentre of Australia’s Covid-19 outbreak, said on Thursday the number of new daily infections was close to a three-month low, buoying hopes that restrictions will be eased sooner than expected.

New Zealand’s chief health officer has spoken about the toll on his mental health as he became the face of the country’s successful fight against the outbreak. Ashley Bloomfield said he often wondered “can I do this?” as he faced another day of fronting media conferences to explain policy and statistics.

(Courtesy The Guardian)