The Latest: EU trade chief under pressure for golf event
LONDON — The EU’s trade commissioner is coming under intense pressure to step down after attending a golf event despite a ban on public gatherings during the pandemic.
The job of Phil Hogan, an Irishman who is expected to play a key role in trade talks with the U.K., is under threat amid a growing crisis stemming from a golf society dinner in the west of Ireland that was attended by more than 80 people. A surge in coronavirus cases recently prompted Ireland to reimpose restrictions on public gatherings that were eased in early summer.
The agriculture minister and deputy speaker of the Senate resigned last week after confirming they were at the event.
Hogan offered a “fulsome and profound apology” over the incident.
The deputy head of government, Leo Varadkar, said he shared the public’s anger at the golf event, but said the apology helps. He told RTE that Hogan may not have been as familiar with the coronavirus situation in Ireland because he was not based in the country.
Varadkar said that “he also needs to account for himself and explain and answer any questions that might arise, not just in relation to the dinner but also his movements around the country.”
“If he cannot do that, he needs to consider his position,” he said.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— India’s virus caseload tops 3 million as disease moves south
— As more colleges stay online, students demand tuition cuts
— Miami ICU nurse: I have never in my life seen so many deaths
— India’s use of cheaper, faster but less accurate tests for the coronavirus highlights some of the inherent pitfalls of a strategy that the U.S. is now considering to scale up testing.
— Germany held a pop concert Saturday to see how those attending could spread coronavirus if they had it. Researchers studying COVID-19 packed part of a Leipzig arena with volunteers, collecting data in a “real life” simulation of a pop concert but one with strict health and safety controls.
— Several dozen aging U.S. veterans will gather on a ship in Pearl Harbor next month to mark the 75th anniversary of Japan’s surrender, even if it means the vulnerable group may be risking their lives again amid the coronavirus pandemic.
— Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
LONDON — Britain’s top medical officers say children are more likely to be harmed by staying away from school than from being exposed to the coronavirus.
England’s chief medical officer on Sunday joined his counterparts in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales in saying that children are less likely to contract the virus than adults and have “an exceptionally low risk” of dying from COVID-19.
By contrast, they said studies show that not going to school limits children’s ability to succeed in life and may worsen physical and mental health problems.
“Very few, if any, children or teenagers will come to long-term harm from COVID-19 due solely to attending school,” they said in a statement. “This has to be set against a certainty of long-term harm to many children and young people from not attending school.”
The statement comes as parents and teachers express concern about reopening schools next month amid fears that social distancing measures won’t keep children safe.
ISLAMABAD — Pakistani authorities on Sunday reported only four new COVID-19 fatalities in the past 24 hours, the fewest deaths since March.
The announcement raises hopes that Pakistan is on the right path to fully containing the coronavirus despite having a fragile health system.
The National Command and Control Center also reported 591 new cases, increasing the country’s caseload to 275,836, including 6,275 deaths.
Pakistan witnessed a sudden spike in infections and deaths in June, but confirmed cases and fatalities have gradually declined since then. The latest development comes days after Pakistan’s drug regulatory agency approved final-phase testing of a Chinese-made coronavirus vaccine.
Pakistan hopes it will get the vaccine on priority from neighboring China if its clinical trials show success.
ROME — Sicily’s governor is ordering all migrants who reach the island by sea be transferred from the Mediterranean island as part of measures to combat the spread of COVID-19.
The ordinance, signed by Gov. Nello Musumeci, went into effect Sunday and stipulates that all centers housing migrants awaiting processing of asylum applications be shut down by the end of Monday.
His order, effective through Sept. 10, also forbids any boat, including charity vessels, to bring migrants to the island.
While in past years the great majority of migrants reaching Italy were rescued at sea by humanitarian groups, cargo ships or military vessels, this year, nearly 80% of arrivals reached Italian shores autonomously, most setting sail from Tunisia instead of Libya, where human traffickers are based.
Many come ashore on tiny Lampedusa island, but its migrant center is dangerously overcrowded. So Italy has taken to quarantining the latest arrivals aboard chartered ferries offshore Sicily. On Saturday, one-third of Sicily’s 48 one-day total of new confirmed coronavirus infections occurred in migrants.
MOSCOW — Yulia Tymoshenko, the former Ukrainian prime minister and a key figure in the 2004 Orange Revolution protests, has contracted COVID-19.
Her spokeswoman Marina Soroka said in a Sunday post on Facebook that Tymoshenko is in serious condition with a fever of 39 C (102 F), but did not specify if she has been hospitalized.
Tymoshenko captured attention worldwide for her speeches to huge crowds of protesters in the 2004 demonstrations that forced the rerun of a disputed presidential election.
After Viktor Yushchenko won the election rerun, Tymoshenko became prime minister, but was dismissed amid quarrels and then returned to the office. Under subsequent President Viktor Yanukovych, she was imprisoned for three years on a conviction of abuse of power.
BEIJING — China on Sunday reported 12 new confirmed coronavirus cases and no additional deaths.
The National Health Commission said 422 patients were being treated, including 16 in critical condition.
The death toll in China, where the outbreak began in December, stands at 4,634.
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has added 397 new coronavirus cases, counting its tenth straight day of triple-digit increases as the speed of viral spread nears the levels the country saw during the worst of its outbreak in spring.
The resurgence, which began in the densely populated capital area before spreading to practically every major city and provincial town over the past week, is a major setback for the country that had been eager to tout its hard-won gains against the virus.
After avoiding stringent social distancing measures because of concerns over a fragile economy, officials have now banned large gatherings, closed nightspots, beaches and churches and removed fans from professional sports in a desperate effort to stem transmissions.
Sunday’s daily jump in infections marked the third-consecutive day of over 300 and the highest since the 483 cases reported on March 7, when the country was dealing with a spike of transmissions in its southeastern region.
The KCDC linked 297 of the new cases to the Seoul metropolitan area, home to half of the country’s 51 million population, where health workers have struggled to track infections tied to various sources, including churches, schools, restaurants and workplaces.
Cases were also reported in other major cities such as Busan. Gwangju, Daejeon and Daegu, the epicenter of the country’s previous major outbreak in late February and March.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The University of Alabama has issued a temporary prohibition on student events, including off-campus parties and fraternity and sorority gatherings.
The university says its issuing a 14-day moratorium on all in-person student events outside of classroom instruction. Social gatherings are prohibited both on and off campus and the common areas of dormitories and fraternity and sorority houses are closed, according to the new guidelines.
The announcement came less than a week after city and school officials raised the alarm about large crowds waiting outside bars.
Alabama has confirmed nearly 2,000 deaths in the state, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
BOSTON — More cases of coronavirus have been traced to a recent wedding reception in Maine. Health officials say 53 cases have been linked to the Aug. 7 reception in Millinocket. A hospital says one person associated with the outbreak has died.
The reception at the Big Moose Inn exceeded the state’s indoor gathering limit, among other violations of state rules. About 65 people attended the event. The limit was 50.
Thirty-two new cases and one additional death was announced Saturday by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Maine has reached nearly 4,320 cases and 131 deaths.
MIDDLETON, Wis. — A Middleton coffee shop has lost its lease after violating Dane County’s mask mandate.
The Wisconsin State Journal reports that Helbachs Coffee Roasters and Kitchen will close on Aug. 31. The shop says in an Instagram post Thursday its landlord has refused to renew its lease and the decision to close comes on the heels of “enforcement action, negative public statements and continued vindictive and hostile behavior” by county health officials toward the shop.
Public Health Madison and Dane County issued the shop three citations for violating the order. The shop was facing revocation of its food and drink license because of its refusal to abide by the order.
The shop responded with a lawsuit, declaring itself “a mask-free zone.”
TALLAHASSEE, Fla — Florida recorded 4,300 new cases and 106 coronavirus deaths on Saturday.
The state is registering an average of 156 coronavirus deaths per day this month, which likely makes COVID-19 the state’s No. 1 killer during that period. Cancer and heart disease each average about 125 deaths per day, according to the Florida Department of Health.
The number of new cases continues a downward trend from more than 10,000 cases per day a month ago. During the past week, the state’s positivity rate on tests has been 10.8%.
Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 have been declining. On Saturday, 4,773 patients were treated for the disease in Florida hospitals compared to Friday’s 4,909 and Thursday’s 5,340. That number has fallen from a peak above 9,500 on July 23.
Overall, the state has nearly 600,000 confirmed cases since March 1 and 10,410 deaths.
PHOENIX — The Arizona Department of Health Services reported 996 new cases and 68 confirmed coronavirus deaths on Saturday.
That increased the state’s totals to 197,895 cases and 4,756 deaths, as reports of infections and deaths continued to slow.
The coronavirus hospitalization numbers from the health department showed a downward trend, posting levels from late May and early June before Arizona became a national hot spot. New case and death reports have dropped since mid-July.
The seven-day rolling average of new daily cases dropped from 1,578 on Aug. 7 to 740 on Aug. 21. The rolling average of deaths per day dropped from 55 to 38.
ROME — Vacationers returning to the Italian mainland from Sardinia helped push Italy’s daily new coronavirus caseload far past 1,000 on Saturday, reaching the high for the first time since early May.
Confirmed cases increased from 947 on Friday to 1,071 on Saturday, with many infections confirmed in travelers who were tested as they disembarked from airplanes or ferries.
Authorities in Lazio, the south-central region including Rome, say 45 percent of its 215 new cases Saturday were from people returning from Sardinia, where several clusters have been linked to discos or private parties on the posh Emerald Coast resort area.
While the average age of infection early in the outbreak hovered near 70, it’s now 30.
Italy has more than 258,000 confirmed cases. With three more deaths, the known total has reached 35,400.
NEW YORK — The world hit a grim coronavirus milestone Saturday with 800,000 confirmed deaths and close to 23 million confirmed cases.
That’s according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. Governments have been attempting to balance public health with economic health.
Officials believe the true numbers are far higher because of a lack of testing and reporting. In the U.S., the nation with the most infections, health officials believe there may be 10 times more cases than the confirmed 5.6 million. The U.S. also leads the world in deaths, with more than 175,000.
The news comes as South Korea, once considered a coronavirus success story, banned large gatherings, shut nightspots and churches and banned fans from professional sports to slow a viral resurgence. Germany, which also initially slowed the virus, reported a four-month high of more than 2,000 cases on Saturday. Schools there reopened two weeks ago, and at least 41 schools this week reported students or teachers were infected.
In the U.S., schools have begun to reopen, with coronavirus outbreaks triggering sudden closings, quarantines and anxiety among parents.