The Latest: Europe hits record of over 700,000 new cases
GENEVA — The World Health Organization said European nations reported more than 700,000 new coronavirus cases last week — the highest-ever figure since the start of the pandemic.
In a weekly briefing published Tuesday, WHO said weekly virus cases and deaths across Europe jumped by 34% and 16% respectively. Britain, France, Russia and Spain accounted for more than half of the new cases seen in the region.
WHO noted that the number of new cases reported in Spain showed a “noticeable decline” in comparison to recent weeks. But in Poland, WHO said virus cases and deaths spiked by 93% and 104% respectively, and the government has tightened restrictions to try avoiding another lockdown.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said this week that the agency understood the frustration people were feeling as the pandemic drags on but warned “there are no shortcuts and no silver bullets.”
WHO described lockdowns a “last resort” when countries have no other options and urged officials to use more targeted methods to stop the virus.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Second COVID-19 vaccine trial paused over unexplained illness
— Takeaways: Coronavirus at center of Supreme Court hearings
— Defiant Trump defends virus record at his first post-COVID rally
— Britain begins 3-tier virus risk system, puts Liverpool at very high risk
— As the pandemic presses on, waves of grief follow its path
— Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The government in Norway says it will make the vaccine free and that it will cover the costs that municipalities and hospitals may have in connection with vaccinations.
Health Minister Bent Hoeie said Tuesday that the government’s decision was based on recommendation by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. That agency will also be preparing a national vaccination plan with a priority order.
“We hope to be able to start offering vaccines as early as 2021 but the time for start-up will depend on when pharmaceutical authorities give their approval,” Hoeie told the Norwegian parliament.
Norway has seen 15,524 coronavirus cases and 276 deaths.
TAIPEI, Taiwan — Taiwan says it has disagnosed coronavirus in a Taiwanese citizen returning from China for the first time since February.
The patient, identified only as a man in his forties, reported having a runny nose and cough to quarantine officials upon his arrival in Taiwan on Sunday, spokesperson for the Central Epidemic Command Center Chuang Jen-hsiang told reporters Tuesday.
Chuang said the man had been working in the eastern province of Jiangsu, which, according to China’s National Health Commission, has not reported any recent cases of local transmission.
He said Taiwan’s last case of a person bringing the virus from China was on February 6.
China administers routine temperature checks at its airports. However, Chuang was not required to submit a negative virus test on returning to Taiwan, Chiang said.
Taiwan took strong measures to arrest the spread of COVID-19 but has since relaxed many of those measures. The island has reported 530 cases with seven virus-related deaths.
LONDON – Britain’s government defended its new three-tier system of COVID-19 restrictions as critics suggested it was too little, too late amid reports the government’s scientific advisers recommended tougher action three weeks ago.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled the new system Monday in a carefully orchestrated series of events that culminated with an address to the nation. The plan sets out progressively stricter measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 based on local infection rates and placed the northern city of Liverpool in the highest risk category.
The new system comes three weeks after the government’s last nationwide program, which banned gatherings of more than six people and required pubs and restaurants to close at 10 p.m. The government’s scientific advisers at that time recommended ministers go further, suggesting a two- to three-week national lockdown to short-circuit rapidly rising infection rates.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick told the BBC that the government took “robust action” in response to the scientist’s advice, but ministers had to balance this against other impacts like the economy.
ROME — Italian Premiere Giuseppe Conte has ordered strict new anti-coronavirus measures, including limits on private gatherings and a ban on casual pickup sports.
Conte negotiated with the country’s regions to win limits on private gatherings, over the objections of some governors. Parties in closed spaces are banned, but the measures, imposed Tuesday, are limited to “strong recommendations” against private gatherings in homes with more than six people who don’t live under the same roof.
Bars and restaurants must close by midnight, and drinks can only be consumed at tables — not while standing at the bar or outside — after 9 p.m. Also banned are any contact sports that are not organized by an association that can maintain distancing rules. That means no casual games of Italy’s beloved soccer in local parks.
After mandating the wearing of masks outdoors last week, the government sought the additional measures, with the number of new cases rising to around 5,000 a day in the past week.
JERUSALEM — Israel has now recorded more than 2,000 deaths from the coronavirus as the country remains under lockdown for a fourth week to quell the outbreak.
The Health Ministry reported Monday night that the country had surpassed 2,000 deaths. It reported five more fatalities on Tuesday, raising the toll to 2,021.
Israel — which has confirmed more than 295,000 cases — had garnered praise earlier this year for its swift imposition of travel restrictions to limit the pandemic’s spread, but after lifting the first nationwide lockdown in May, new cases quickly increased.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government imposed a second blanket lockdown on Sept. 18 as the infection rate per capita grew to one of the highest in the world.
Israel’s infection rate is gradually decreasing, and the Cabinet is deliberating how and when the government will start to lift restrictions.
LONDON — Unemployment across the U.K. spiked sharply in August, a clear signal that the jobless rate is heading towards levels not seen in nearly 30 years when a British government salary-support scheme ends this month and new local restrictions are imposed to suppress a resurgence of the coronavirus.
The Office for National Statistics said Tuesday that unemployment rose by 138,000 in the three months to August from the previous three-month period. The unemployment rate jumped to 4.5%, its highest rate since early 2017, from 4.1% in the previous quarter.
So far, Britain has been spared the sharp rises in unemployment seen in the United States because of the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which has paid most of the salaries of workers who have not been fired. Some 1.2 million employers have taken advantage of the program to furlough 9.6 million people at a cost to the government of nearly 40 billion pounds ($52 billion).
Since the program ends at the end of October, many of those still on furlough are expected to be made redundant and unemployment to rise further.
ISLAMABAD — With Pakistan’s coronavirus caseload inching upward, the government has increased lockdowns across the country, targeting markets and neighborhoods with increasing numbers.
At a meeting of top government officials from across the country Tuesday, Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar said 3,497 so-called “smart” lockdowns have been imposed in districts across the country of 220 million people.
Pakistan has recorded 319,848 cases, including 531 new ones reported Tuesday.
NEW DELHI — India has registered 55,342 new coronavirus cases, its lowest single-day tally since mid-August.
The Health Ministry raised India’s confirmed total to more than 7.17 million cases on Tuesday but said the country was showing a trend of declining daily cases over the last five weeks.
The ministry also reported 706 deaths in the past 24 hours, raising the toll to 109,856.
According to data shared by the Health Ministry, the average number of daily cases from Sept. 9-15 was 92,830. The average has steadily declined since then, falling to under 73,000 per day over the last week.
Meanwhile, India’s testing rate has remained constant, with almost 1.1. million tests being carried out every day.
India, a country of nearly 1.4 billion people, is second in the world in total cases, behind only the U.S., which has confirmed over 7.8 million infections.
BEIJING — Authorities in the eastern Chinese port city of Qingdao say they have completed coronavirus tests on more than 3 million people following the country’s first reported local outbreak of the virus in nearly two months.
The city’s health department said Tuesday that no new positive cases had been found among the more than 1.1 million test results returned thus far. The city said it had a total of 12 cases, six with symptoms and six without, since the new outbreak was first spotted over the weekend at a hospital.
The National Health Commission, however, said Tuesday that at least six new cases of the virus were found in Qingdao in the past 24 hours.
The reason for the discrepancy was not immediately clear.
The National Health Commission numbers released Tuesday reported a total of 30 new virus cases in the previous 24 hours nationwide. It broke down those numbers into 13 cases in which people had symptoms and 17 cases in which they had no symptoms. The total number of locally transmitted cases, both with and without symptoms, was 11, while the rest were listed as imported.
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 102 new cases of the coronavirus, its first daily increase over 100 in six days. The steady rise is a cause of concern as officials have lowered social distancing restrictions this week after concluding that the viral spread was slowing after a spike in mid-August.
The figures released by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency brought the national caseload to 24,805, including 434 deaths.
Fifty-eight of the new cases was reported from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, where transmissions have been linked to hospitals, sports facilities, a funeral home and an army unit.
Thirty-three of the new cases have been linked to international arrivals, including passengers from Russia, Nepal, Japan and the United States.
South Korea relaxed its social distancing guidelines beginning Monday, which allowed high-risk businesses like nightclubs and karaoke bars to reopen and for professional sports leagues to proceed with plans to bring back fans in the stands.
AUSTIN, Texas — An ongoing wave of COVID-19 cases in the El Paso area prompted Gov. Greg Abbott to announce Monday that a surge team of medical professionals would be dispatched to the area.
The 75 doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists being dispatched will be accompanied by a supply of extra personal protective equipment to support efforts by El Paso hospitals to meet the surge of coronavirus infections. The team will be in addition to the 169 professionals the state previously sent to the area.
As of Monday, 313 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in El Paso, Hudspeth and Culberson counties of West Texas. The state estimated that active COVID-19 cases in El Paso County alone soared from almost 4,000 on Oct. 1 to just over 6,000 Monday. Seven cases were fatal during that period.
FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky’s governor said Monday that he kept up a busy work schedule despite being confined to the governor’s mansion after being around someone who later tested positive for COVID-19.
Gov. Andy Beshear said he will follow the advice of state public health officials in determining how long he and his family remain quarantined at the mansion. His next COVID test is expected to be Tuesday and then Friday, he said. He added he tested negative last week.
“I’ve asked them (health officials) to treat me like anybody else out there,” the Democratic said. “So I’m going to follow all the rules and all the guidelines.”
Beshear said he had one of his busiest Mondays in a while, and that the biggest challenge of working in quarantine — away from his staff — was all the time he spent “staring at a screen.”
In his virtual briefing, the governor reported Kentucky’s highest number of coronavirus cases on a Monday since the pandemic began.