While You Were Sleeping: 5 stories you might have missed, July 20

The virus has claimed over 140,000 US lives in total since the pandemic started. PHOTO: AFP

Florida's Covid-19 cases surge for fifth day as Trump pledges outbreak coming under control

Florida reported over 12,000 new cases of Covid-19 on Sunday, the fifth day in a row the state has announced over 10,000 new infections, even as US President Donald Trump pledged that the virus was coming under control.

The virus has claimed over 140,000 US lives total since the pandemic started, and Florida, California, Texas and other southern and western states shatter records every day.

Despite record levels of new cases nationwide, the Trump administration is pushing for school to reopen in a few weeks and resisting a federal mandate to wear masks in public.

Trump defended his handling of the coronavirus pandemic in an interview broadcast on Sunday, including his statement that there were only embers of the virus popping up around the country.


Sun-seekers crowd Barcelona beaches, defying Covid-19 stay-at-home advice

People sunbathed and played in the sea along Barcelona's beaches on Sunday, ignoring pleas from Catalan authorities for area residents to stay at home as coronavirus cases continued to rise in one of Spain's worst-hit regions.

As police patrolled in masks to ensure social distancing, Barceloneta beach, a favourite with tourists, reached capacity and had to be closed to new bathers on Sunday afternoon. People were queueing to access the beach.

Earlier in the day, authorities urged the more than 96,000 residents of three Catalan towns to stay home as part of a toughened response to the crisis. On Friday, some four million people, including in Barcelona, were advised to leave their home only for essential trips.


EU recovery fund plan hangs in balance on third day of talks

A European Union plan to breathe life into economies throttled by the Covid-19 pandemic hung in the balance on Sunday as leaders quarrelled over how to carve up a vast recovery fund and what strings to attach for countries it would benefit.

After three days of meetings in Brussels, the 27 EU states were still seeking a compromise on the fund after haggling into the evening over moves designed to help haul Europe out of its deepest recession since World War II.

Diplomats said it was not clear whether they would abandon the summit and try again next month, or plough on through the night.


Turkey's President Erdogan visits Hagia Sofia after reconversion to mosque

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan paid a surprise visit to Hagia Sofia on Sunday just days before the first Muslim prayers are due to be held at the Istanbul landmark since it was reconverted to a mosque last week.

In a lightning visit billed as an inspection, Erdogan took stock of the conversion work, the president's office said, providing pictures showing scaffolding inside the building.

Diyanet, the country's religious authority, said Christian icons would be curtained off and unlit "through appropriate means during prayer times".


Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton wins Hungarian GP to take championship lead

A masterful Lewis Hamilton won the Hungarian Grand Prix in dominant style and for a record eighth time on Sunday to wrest the Formula One championship lead from Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.

Max Verstappen took second for Red Bull, the Dutch youngster awarded Drive Of The Day after crashing on the way to the grid in early drama that had his mechanics scrambling to fix the damage before the start.

Bottas, now five points behind Hamilton after three races, finished a close third after battling back from a botched start off the front row.


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