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The virus appears to be spreading much faster in India than any other country

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases across the globe has surpassed 30 million, according to figures by America’s Johns Hopkins University.

More than 940,000 have died with Covid-19 since the outbreak began in China late last year.

The worst hit nations are the US, India and Brazil, but there is a renewed spike in infections across Europe.

Many northern hemisphere countries are now bracing for a second wave of the pandemic as winter approaches.

In the UK, the government is considering taking further England-wide measures including a short period of restrictions to try to slow a second surge of infections.

Outside Europe, Israel brings in a second nationwide lockdown later on Friday – the first developed nation to do so.

What is happening in the worst affected nations?

The US remains by far the worst hit in terms of numbers, with more than 6.6 million confirmed infections, and over 197,000 deaths.

The number of new daily infections has been dropping, though, compared with the peak figures seen in July.

1600397349 649 Global coronavirus infections top 30 million

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Media captionCDC director vs President Trump on face masks and vaccines

Earlier this week, President Donald Trump denied downplaying the seriousness of Covid-19, despite admitting in a recorded interview to having done that.

In India, the number of known infections climbed above five million this week – the second-highest caseload in the world.

The virus appears to be spreading much faster in India than any other country, with daily cases topping 90,000 in recent days. More than 80,000 people have died, amid reports of shortages of intensive care beds and oxygen supplies.

Brazil has had more than 4.4 million confirmed cases, with more than 134,000 fatalities – the second-highest death toll after the US.

1600397349 994 Global coronavirus infections top 30 million

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Media captionBolsonaro removed his mask after announcing he had tested positive for coronavirus

President Jair Bolsonaro has come under criticism for downplaying coronavirus, particularly after attending an anti-lockdown rally. The right-wing leader – who had been calling the virus a “little flu” – himself tested positive in July.

Argentina and Mexico have also been hit hard by the outbreak in Latin America.

Argentina on Thursday reported nearly 13,000 more cases in the past 24 hours, pushing the country’s overall total above 600,000.

Meanwhile, Mexico confirmed more than 3,000 daily infections, bringing the caseload to more than 680,000.

What is the situation in Europe?

Surging coronavirus figures on the continent should serve as “a wake-up call”, the World Health Organization’s regional director earlier this week.

Speaking in Copenhagen on Thursday, Hans Kluge said in the past two weeks the number of new cases had doubled in more than half of European member states.

He said that 300,000 new infections were reported across Europe last week alone and weekly cases had exceeded those reported during the first peak in March.

According to the WHO, there have been five million confirmed cases and more than 228,000 fatalities across Europe since the pandemic began.

Is there light at the end of the tunnel?

A number of countries and companies are piling resources into finding a vaccine that is safe and effective.

President Trump has recently said a vaccine might be available before the 3 November presidential elections – despite warnings from a number of health experts that this is unrealistic.

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Russia in August licensed a vaccine for local use – the first country to do so. Russian scientists later published the first report on the vaccine, saying early tests showed signs of an immune response.

But experts warned that the trials were too small to prove effectiveness and safety.

No vaccine has yet completed clinical trials, leading some scientists to fear politics rather than health and safety is driving the push for the possible cure.

There are also concerns that the race to get a vaccine will be won by the richest countries, at the expense of the most vulnerable.

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Murkowski to back Barrett for Supreme Court, despite opposing GOP process

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Sen. Lisa Murkowski will vote to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, despite her opposition to moving forward in an election year.

The Alaska Republican said Saturday she will split her votes on Barrett. She will vote against a procedural hurdle on Sunday to advance her nomination over a filibuster, due to her longstanding objection to confirming a justice so close to the Nov. 3 presidential election.

But based on the merits of Barrett’s credentials for the job, she’s a ‘yes.’

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Tension Has Escalated Between Tory MPs And Marcus Rashford Ahead Of A Vote On Free School Meals

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Tories must face up to their “conscience” today on a vote on extending free school meals over the holidays, Labour has claimed, as footballer and anti-poverty campaigner Marcus Rashford ramped up the pressure on politicians to back it.

The challenge from shadow children’s minister Tulip Siddiq came after another difficult morning for the government as Manchester United star Rashford said he was “paying close attention” to the vote and then got into a Twitter spat with Tory MP Steve Baker over who has the power to introduce the free meals.

Moments later Tory backbencher Anne Marie Morris, MP for Newton Abbot in Devon, broke ranks to say she would be supporting Labour’s motion on extending the free school meals until next Easter. Education select committee chair Conservavtive Robert Halfon has urged the government to work with Rashford.

When asked at Prime Minister’s Questions to back the proposal by Labour, Boris Johnson said the government wanted to use the benefits system to support children in the hoildays.

“I want to make sure we continue to support families thoughout the crisis so they have the cash available to feed their kids as they need to do,” he said. 

Earlier this week government minister Nadhim Zahawi has said that struggling families can claim Universal Credit and that many parents do not like being labelled as being on ‘free school meals’ instead preferring to pay a modest sum of money to a holiday club to provide food.

Siddiq told PoliticsHome: “A lot of the Tories, Don Valley, Bishop Aukland and places like that they’re all a little bit worried. It’s the kind of thing that can be used against them in their patches.

“Even if they don’t walk through the lobbies with us tonight that they put a lot of pressure on the prime minister. And that’s how it happened last time.

“I know it’s not easy to break the whip but some votes are a matter of conscience and this is one of them.

“We’re going to be facing the toughest winter of a generation, there’s coronavirus, the end of the furlough scheme – children are in for a tough ride. Why can’t we just do one last thing for parents so they don’t have to worry?”

She said some Tories she had spoken to directly in Parliament on Tuesday were sympathetic to the issue but they did not want to break the whip.

The vouchers were introduced for the poorest families in August after significant pressure from Rashford. The England striker said today that the situation for children is now worse than in the summer.

The vote at 7pm is on a Labour motion calling on the government to continue directly funding free school meals over the holidays until Easter 2021. They say it would prevent a million children going hungry.

Rashford tweeted that he was paying close attention to the Commons today and to those who are willing to “turn a blind eye” to the needs of our most vulnerable children.

He wrote: “2.2M of them who currently qualify for Free School Meals. 42% newly registered. Not to mention the 1.5M children who currently don’t qualify.”

He then got into an disagreement with MP Steve Baker who said Rashford was the one with all the power to make the change on free school meals because he has more Twitter followers that he does, despite Baker being a politician for the ruling Conservative party.

Baker said instead Universal Credit could be boosted to try and help families..

Morris, who was elected in 2010 said that she would vote against her own party tonight because of the economic fall out for people in her constituency.

She tweeted: “The ongoing pandemic has had a heavy impact on many across Teignbridge, bringing with it significant economic difficulties for many. This is why I am supporting the motion calling for the continuation of direct funding for FSM over school holidays until Easter 2021.

“This time-limited measure is a perfectly sensible response as we deal with the economic consequences of Covid-19. Longer-term I believe it is right that those eligible should be supported through the Holidays & Activities Food Programme and the Universal Credit system.”

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Trump comment on ‘blowing up’ Nile Dam angers Ethiopia

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image captionThe dam will be the biggest hydro-electric project in Africa

Ethiopia’s prime minister has said his country “will not cave in to aggressions of any kind” after President Donald Trump suggested Egypt could destroy a controversial Nile dam.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is at the centre of a long-running dispute involving Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan.

Mr Trump said Egypt would not be able to live with the dam and might “blow up” the construction.

Ethiopia sees the US as siding with Egypt in the dispute.

The US announced in September that it would cut some aid to Ethiopia after it began filling the reservoir behind the dam in July.

Why is the dam disputed?

Egypt relies for the bulk of its water needs on the Nile and is concerned supplies could be cut off and its economy undermined as Ethiopia takes control of the flow of Africa’s longest river.

Once complete, the $4bn (£3bn) structure on the Blue Nile in western Ethiopia will be Africa’s largest hydro-electric project.

The speed with which Ethiopia fills up the dam will govern how severely Egypt is affected – the slower the better as far as Cairo is concerned. That process is expected to take several years.

  • Who owns the River Nile – and why it matters

  • Egypt fumes as Ethiopia celebrates over Nile dam
  • How the Nile’s mega dam will be filled

Sudan, further upstream than Egypt, is also concerned about water shortages.

Ethiopia, which announced the start of construction in 2011, says it needs the dam for its economic development.

Negotiations between the three countries were being chaired by the US, but are now overseen by the African Union.

What did the Ethiopian PM say?

PM Abiy Ahmed did not address Mr Trump’s remarks directly, but there appears to be little doubt what prompted his robust comments.

Ethiopians would finish the dam, he vowed.

“Ethiopia will not cave in to aggression of any kind,” he said. “Ethiopians have never kneeled to obey their enemies, but to respect their friends. We won’t do it today and in the future.”

Threats of any kind over the issue were “misguided, unproductive and clear violations of international law”.

image copyrightReuters
image captionSudan is worried too – the Blue and White Niles meet in Khartoum

Why did Trump get involved?

The president was on the phone to Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu in front of reporters at the White House on Friday.

The occasion was Israel and Sudan’s decision to agree diplomatic relations in a move choreographed by the US.

The subject of the dam came up and Mr Trump and Mr Hamdok expressed hopes for a peaceful resolution to the dispute.

But Mr Trump also said “it’s a very dangerous situation because Egypt is not going to be able to live that way”.

He continued: “And I said it and I say it loud and clear – they’ll blow up that dam. And they have to do something.”

image copyrightReuters
image captionThe dam came up in a phone call with Sudan’s prime minister

What is the state of the negotiations?

Mr Abiy maintains that the negotiations have made more progress since the African Union began mediation.

But there are fears that Ethiopia’s decision to start filling the reservoir could overshadow hopes of resolving key areas, such what happens during a drought and how to resolve future disputes.

Related Topics

  • Nile

  • Sudan
  • Donald Trump
  • Egypt
  • Ethiopia

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