The European Union summit has been postponed for a week as EU Council President Charles Michel has gone into quarantine after a close collaborator was diagnosed with COVID-19, reports AP.
Spokesman Barend Leyts made the disclosure on Tuesday, saying “Michel today learned that a security officer, with whom he was in close contact early last week, tested positive for COVID."
Leyts said that the European Council chief is "respecting Belgian rules" and "he has gone into quarantine as of today."
President Donald Trump on Tuesday demanded that the United Nations hold China accountable for the coronavirus pandemic as he defends his own handling of COVID-19 in America where the death toll is nearing 200,000.
"We have waged a fierce battle against the invisible enemy – the China virus – which has claimed countless lives in 188 countries," Trump said in a prerecorded address to the UN General Assembly that lasted less than seven minutes.
"As we pursue this bright future, we must hold accountable the nation which unleashed this plague onto the world: China."
While Trump blames China, he has been harshly criticized for his administration's track record in battling the coronavirus, now a top issue in his bid for reelection. Democratic opponent Joe Biden claims Trump bungled the response to COVID-19 and is responsible for the US having more deaths than any other nation.
Trump encouraged the reopening of US society even as the virus was spreading rapidly and holds campaign rallies where few wear face masks or practice social distancing.
But Trump points to the virus' origins in China and says the Chinese government acted irresponsibly in allowing the virus to spread.
"The United Nations must hold China accountable for their actions," Trump said. The president also took aim at China's environmental record and the United Nations itself.
"Those who attack America's exceptional environmental record while ignoring China's rampant pollution are not interested in the environment. They only want to punish America. And I will not stand for it," Trump said.
Tropical Storm Beta stalled out Tuesday along the Texas coast, flooding streets in Houston and Galveston hours after making landfall amid an unusually busy hurricane season.
The storm made landfall late Monday just north of Port O’Connor, Texas, and has the distinction of being the first time a storm named for a Greek letter made landfall in the continental United States. Forecasters ran out of traditional storm names last week, forcing the use of the Greek alphabet for only the second time since the 1950s.
Early Tuesday, Beta was 10 miles (15 kilometers) east-southeast of Victoria, Texas, with maximum winds of 40 mph (64 kph), the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. The storm was moving toward the northwest near 3 mph (4 kilometers) and is expected to stall inland over Texas through Wednesday.
“We currently have both storm surge and rainfall going on right now,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Amaryllis Cotto in Galveston, Texas.
Cotto said 6-12 inches (15-30 centimeters) of rain has fallen in the area, with isolated amounts of up to 18 inches (45 centimeters). Dangerous flash flooding is expected through Wednesday, Cotto said.
Beta was the ninth named storm that made landfall in the continental U.S. this year. That tied a record set in 1916, according to Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach.
Beta was expected to linger over Texas then eventually move over Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi later in the week, bringing the risk of flash flooding.
Forecasters warned of heavy rainfall Tuesday on the middle and upper Texas coast, which will cause significant flash flooding. Six to 12 inches of rain (15 to 30 centimeters) was expected, with some isolated areas of up to 20 inches (51 centimeters), forecasters said.
However, forecasters and officials reassured residents Beta was not expected to be another Hurricane Harvey or Tropical Storm Imelda.
Harvey in 2017 dumped more than 50 inches (127 centimeters) of rain on Houston, causing $125 billion in damage in Texas. Imelda, which hit Southeast Texas last year, was one of the wettest cyclones on record.
Storm surge up to 4 feet (1.2 meters) was possible in the Galveston and Beaumont areas through Wednesday morning, forecasters said. In Galveston, an island city southeast of Houston, there was already some street flooding Monday from rising tides and part of a popular fishing pier collapsed due to strong waves.
Farther south on the Texas coast, Maria Serrano Culpepper along with her two daughters and dogs left their home in Magnolia Beach near Matagorda Bay on Sunday night.
Sales of existing homes rose 2.4 percent in August to its highest level since 2006 in the United States as the housing market recovers from a widespread shutdown brought on by the coronavirus outbreak.
The National Association of Realtors disclosed the information on Tuesday, saying that sales rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6 million homes sold last month, reports AP.
Sales are up 10.5 percent from a year ago
It's the third straight gain for sales of existing homes following big, consecutive declines in March, April and May.
The median price for an existing single-family home reached $315,000 in August, up 11.7 percent from August 2019.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday disclosed that he ordered fresh restrictions on regular activities amid fear of a dramatic surge in confirmed coronavirus cases.
He also warned the Britons that they should not expect to return to a normal social or work life for at least six months, reports AP.
Saying Britain must act now or face a huge second wave of COVID-19, Johnson announced a package of new restrictions that includes requiring pubs, restaurants and other entertainment venues in England to close down between 10 pm and 5 am and urging people to work from home where possible.
Johnson had encouraged workers just weeks ago to go back into offices to keep city centers from becoming ghost towns, and he expressed hope that society could return to normal by Christmas. In a stark change of tone, he said Tuesday that "for the time being, this virus is a fact of our lives."
"We will spare no effort in developing vaccines, treatments and new forms of mass testing, but unless we palpably make progress, we should assume that the restrictions I have announced will remain in place for perhaps six months," Johnson told lawmakers in the House of Commons.
The announcement came a day after the government's top scientific and medical advisers said new coronavirus infections were doubling every seven days and could rise to 49,000 a day by mid-October if nothing was done to stem the tide.
On Monday, the government reported 4,300 new confirmed cases, the highest number since May and four times the number seen a month ago. Chief medical officers have raised the U.K.'s virus alert level from three to four, the second-highest rung, saying cases of COVID-19 were rising "rapidly and probably exponentially."
The new restrictions require face masks to be worn in taxis as well as on public transport. The size of some gatherings is being curtailed, with weddings limited to 15 people instead of 30, and a plan to bring spectators back into sports stadiums starting in October is being put on hold.
Johnson did not reduce the number of people who can gather indoors or out, which remains at six.
The British government is also increasing the penalties for breaking the rules. People who breach orders to quarantine face fines of up to 10,000 pounds ($12,800) and businesses that breach "COVID-secure" rules can be shut down.
The measures apply only to England. Other parts of the U.K. introduced similar curbs, but some went further in limiting social interactions.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who has often struck a more cautious note than Johnson during the pandemic, said that with a few exceptions, people would be barred from visiting others' homes, and car-sharing would be discouraged.
Sturgeon said the measure would be reviewed every three weeks but "may be needed for longer than that." She said she hoped it would be less than six months.
The new restrictions outlined by Johnson are less stringent than the nationwide lockdown imposed in March, which confined most of the population and closed most businesses. Britain eased its lockdown starting in June as cases began to fall, but that trend has now been reversed.
The prime minister said if the new curbs did not slow the outbreak, "we reserve the right to deploy greater firepower, with significantly greater restrictions."
Still, some lawmakers from Johnson's governing Conservative Party are uneasy about tightening restrictions on business and daily life, citing the impact on Britain's already-reeling economy.
To persuade people to stay home if they test positive for the virus, the government announced it would pay low-income workers 500 pounds ($639) if they are told to self-isolate for 14 days.
Businesses, especially in the areas of hospitality, sports and the arts, said they urgently needed support, too.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of trade body UKHospitality, said before the announcement that the restrictions would be "another crushing blow" for many businesses.
But most epidemiologists believe more restrictions are again necessary and even worry that the government's plans may not go far enough.
Polls suggest a majority of people in Britain support lockdown measures to contain the virus. But they also show that trust in the Conservative government's handling of the pandemic has declined after troubles with testing, mixed messages on reopening and the U.K.'s high death toll.
Britain has the highest confirmed virus death toll in Europe, at 41,877 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. Experts say all such tallies underestimate the true number of deaths.
While ministers tout the record numbers of tests being performed, there are widespread reports of people having to travel hundreds of miles for tests or tests being voided because it's taking labs too long to process them.
An app meant to bolster contact-tracing efforts is to be released this week after months of delay.
Jennifer Cole, a biological anthropologist at Royal Holloway University, said people's behavior is "the biggest influence" on the spread of the virus.
"In essence, the government is saying, 'Stay sober, stay sensible and the venues can stay open.' It's a carrot to encourage responsible behavior," she said.