The Latest: France aims to open schools by new academic year
PARIS — France is aiming to reopen all schools for the new academic year under as “normal” conditions as possible, President Emmanuel Macron announced Tuesday, despite lingering virus concerns from some parents and teachers.
France gradually reopened schools in May and June as the country emerged from virus lockdown, and most children returned to class. While new infections prompted a few schools to close again, the vast majority stayed open until the school year wrapped up earlier this month.
“We have learned a lot” from that period, Macron said. “We developed a new way of teaching” to take the virus into account.
France’s school reopening was driven by concerns about getting parents back to work to restart the economy, as well as widespread worries about disadvantaged children who couldn’t access online classes, who need special help or whose families depend on subsidized school lunches.
Schools adjusted schedules to keep children from mingling freely and kept students in one classroom instead of having them move around for different subjects. They were required to air out classrooms regularly, and masks were necessary for middle and high school students.
Macron pledged that teachers would be “well-protected” and that schools would adapt again if the virus takes off again before France’s 12.9 million pupils return to school around Sept. 1.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Teachers, parents in Florida want schools open when ‘safe’
— France, England make masks mandatory in most places
— The legions of small businesses that employee most of the world’s workers are struggling; whether they survive will have reverberations in communities
— New York Gov. Cuomo faces blistering criticism over a report discounting link between deaths and state directive that sent virus patients into nursing homes
— Vice President Mike Pence heading to Louisiana as state reemerges as hot spot
Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
MADRID — Authorities in northeastern Spain’s Catalonia region are making fresh attempts to prevent new coronavirus outbreaks from spreading as health experts warn that more and better contact tracing is needed.
The region of 7.5 million people has 150 workers in three shifts tasked with locating individuals who came in close contact with thousands of people who have tested positive for the virus, including more than 2,000 only in the past week.
In line with other experts who say that a ratio of one contact tracer for every three new confirmed cases would be desirable, the head of infectious diseases at Barcelona’s Vall d’Hebron Hospital, Benito Almirante, calculates that Catalonia needs at least between 1,000 to 1,500 contact tracers at the current infection rate.
But the top regional official overseeing the response to the pandemic, Jacobo Mendioroz, said the system is in good shape because it largely relies on computers and that only a “few more” experts are needed.
At least 28,400 people with the virus have died in Spain. More than 170 clusters have been identified since the country dropped a three-month state of emergency, 123 of them are currently active according to Health Ministry
NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus is doubling the number of random coronavirus tests that will be carried out on arriving passengers at its two main airports each day.
The Cypriot government said in a statement on Tuesday that 600 random tests will be performed on passengers arriving from a total 39 countries whose citizens aren’t required to undergo a 14-day quarantine. Travelers arriving from 17 of those countries are required to obtain health certificates declaring them coronavirus-free 72 hours prior to boarding a flight.
The Transport Ministry says approximately 5,500 passengers currently fly in and out of the east Mediterranean island nation’s airports daily.
The statement said the number of tests is being increased in light of an expected rise in airline traffic and to maintain Cyprus’ comparatively low infection rate. Authorities plan to introduce a new and cheaper way of testing even more arriving passengers in the coming days.
Tourism is a key industry for Cyprus, directly accounting for 13% of the economy. Officials are projecting that this year, the country will receive less than a quarter of 2019’s tourist arrivals.
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Florida confirmed 132 coronavirus deaths Tuesday, a one-day record for the state.
That’s a 10% increase from the previous record set Thursday, but likely includes deaths from Saturday or Sunday not reported until Monday.
The rolling seven-day average is 81 deaths per day, currently the second highest in the country behind Texas and double the 39 average two weeks ago. Doctors had been predicting a surge in deaths because Florida’s daily reported infection cases have gone from about 2,000 a day to more than 12,000 in the past month.
That is partly driven by increased testing. However, the percentage of tests coming back positive has increased from 6% a month ago to more than 18%.
When COVID-19 was ravaging New York three months ago, it recorded 799 deaths on April 9 and had a top seven-day average of 763 deaths on April 14. It now has one of the lowest death rates in the country per capita, recording 10 per day during the last week.
ACCRA, Ghana — More than 300 students and tutors have tested positive for coronavirus at high schools in the West African nation of Ghana.
Health officials confirm the Accra Girls Senior High School has been hardest hit, with 55 students and staff contracting the virus. Its campus remains under quarantine. Parents have thronged the school protesting the government’s refusal to grant them access to their children.
Classes resumed June 22 for senior high school students, and education officials maintain infection rates at schools are still comparable to those for the general population.
Ghana has 139 confirmed deaths from COVID-19 and confirmed more than 25,000 total infections since the pandemic began.
NAIROBI, Kenya — Some 41 workers at Kenya’s largest maternity hospital have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Ministry of health Director General Dr. Patrick Amoth says 19 cases involve health care workers and 22 are hospital support staff.
He says those infected are asymptomatic and undergoing medical care under home-based isolation. Three mothers at the facility also tested positive for COVID-19, but Amoth says no babies have been affected.
He says services at the hospital will continue and measures have been put in place to protect the health workers and the public visiting the hospital.
Nurses Association of Kenya President Alfred Obengo says infection control prevention measures at the hospital weren’t followed.
The first doctor in Kenya to die of COVID-19 was buried Monday, amid calls by health professionals for better insurance coverage and compensation. Kenya has recorded 10,791 coronavirus cases and 202 confirmed deaths.
ROME — Italy has made contingency plans to transfer recently arrived migrants with coronavirus to military hospitals after their presence in a southern seaside town sparked protests among some residents.
Italy’s interior ministry says surveillance measures were beefed up in the apartment building in the Calabrian town of Amantea to ensure the quarantine is respected among migrants who tested positive for the virus.
Other migrants who tested positive after a rescue at sea have been quarantined on a ferry offshore.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A group of teachers and parents took part in a “motor march” in Jacksonville to promote the reopening of schools “when it’s safe.”
Two grassroots groups — the Duval Schools Pandemic Solutions Team and the Duval For a Safe Return to Campus — say they want the school district to put certain regulations in place until a vaccine for COVID-19 is available.
The 5-mile drive ended at the Duval County Public School headquarters just before the board’s meeting.
Marla Bryant, co-founder of the Duval Schools Pandemic Solutions Team, told the Florida Times-Union the group’s primary concerns include requiring masks in classrooms, keeping desks 6-feet apart, rigorous cleaning and disinfecting at each school and a full-time distance learning option for all grade levels.
Previously, the district was criticized for not offering a full-time distance learning option for K-12 students who wanted to stay enrolled in their existing school. Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has said schools should reopen as planned next month.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Coronavirus infections are rising again in the Netherlands, with the country’s public health institute reporting 534 confirmed positive tests in the last week, an increase of 102 from the previous week.
The Dutch government has relaxed many of the restrictions to rein in the spread of the virus when it nearly swamped hospital intensive care units in late March and April.
The government is still calling on people to adhere to social distancing measures and stay home and get tested if they develop symptoms of COVID-19.
The health institute reported eight confirmed COVID-19 deaths and 16 people hospitalized in the last week. The confirmed Dutch death toll is 6,135.
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — Bosnia is reopening its border for the citizens of the European Union after four months.
Prime Minister Zoran Tegeltija says the EU citizens must provide a negative test on the coronavirus to be allowed into the country. The test must not be older than 48 hours.
Bosnia and the rest of the Balkans have faced a spike in the virus cases in the last weeks after relaxing lockdown measures during the outbreak in spring.
Bosnia is not on the list of countries allowed into the EU after the bloc recently reopened its borders. The government initially said it, too, would not reopen for EU citizens.
This has triggered protests in the southern town of Mostar and elsewhere by people who are dependent on tourism and have been hit hard in the pandemic.
BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbia’s health minister is asking people to avoid protesting against the country’s restrictive measures to combat a surge in coronavirus cases.
For over than a week, thousands of people across Serbia have been defying a ban on public gatherings of more than 10 people to demonstrate against the Serbian president’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The protests started July 7 when President Aleksandar Vucic announced the capital of Belgrade would be placed under a new three-day lockdown following a second wave of confirmed coronavirus infections.
His government ended the plan and introduced a 10-person ban, but that hasn’t stopped the protests. Vucic and health officials say the mass gatherings have contributed to the virus surge.
Serbia’s Health Minister Zlatibor Loncar says in the past 24 hours, its recorded 344 new cases and 13 deaths in the country. That makes a total of more than 4,500 confirmed cases and 418 deaths.
LONDON — British Health Secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed the wearing of masks will be mandatory in shops and supermarkets in England. The requirement is expected to take effect July 24.
The decision follows weeks of discussion by the government about their value during the coronavirus pandemic.
Hancock told lawmakers in the House of Commons that face coverings can help keep people working in shops safe and can give people more confidence to safely shop.
“We are not out of the woods yet, so let us all do our utmost to keep this virus cornered and enjoy summer safely,” he said. Anyone not wearing a face covering can be fined 100 pounds ($125) and shops can refuse entry to anyone failing to comply.
BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel is signaling she favors people in hard-hit counties staying in their areas after major coronavirus outbreaks.
Germany has loosened many restrictions on public life during the past 2 ½ months, but local authorities will consider new restrictions if the number of infections in an area exceeds 50 per 100,000 residents during a one-week period.
Last month, a partial lockdown was imposed on the Guetersloh region of western Germany after an outbreak at a slaughterhouse. Many other German regions refused to allow people from the area to stay unless they could produce a recent negative test.
Merkel asks, “isn’t it better for the hot spot itself to say, you can only travel anywhere if you have a negative test … than if we check at every hotel in Germany whether someone from a particular county is there?”
She says it’s being discussed with state governments, which are responsible in Germany for lockdown measures.
MADRID — Regional authorities in Andalusia, on the southern Spanish coast, approved a package of measures making face masks mandatory in all open or enclosed spaces, including beaches and swimming pools.
People can take off their mask only to swim. Fines can reach 100 euros ($114).
Other exceptions are inside family homes or when eating, and for children under 6 or people with health problems.
Andalusia, home to such historic cities as Seville, Cordoba and Granada, is also famed for its beaches. Like the rest of Spain, it is trying to control outbreaks of the coronavirus after ending a national lockdown.
PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron says he wants to require masks inside all indoor public spaces by Aug. 1.
In an interview with French television networks marking Bastille Day, Macron says “the best prevention” for the virus are masks, social distancing and hand washing.
Macron says France’s virus reproduction rate is inching past 1 again, meaning each infected person is infecting at least one other.
Many other European nations required masks in indoor public space when they started easing virus lockdowns. France took a more relaxed attitude, recommending but not requiring masks.
Recent rave parties in France and widespread backsliding on social distancing — even within Macron’s presidential palace and other government facilities — have raised concerns.
France has confirmed more than 30,000 virus deaths.
JERUSALEM — Israel’s Health Ministry says the country has confirmed 1,681 new coronavirus cases, a record high.
Israel was widely praised for taking swift action early in the pandemic by closing its borders and imposing other restrictions to contain the virus’s spread. But since reopening the economy and schools in May following a more than monthlong lockdown, the number of new cases has steadily increased.
Health Ministry Director General Hezi Levi says the government is making every effort to try to avoid another countrywide lockdown.
“A general lockdown is without a doubt one of the tools that we try our utmost to avoid reaching for,” Hezi told Israel Radio, but says it remained an option authorities are considering.
Israel has recorded a total of 41,235 cases of the coronavirus. The country currently has over 21,000 active cases and confirmed at least 368 Israelis deaths from COVID-19, according to the Health Ministry.
TEHRAN, Iran — A semi-official Iranian news agency says Tehran’s governor has imposed new restrictions because of a spike in coronavirus cases, ordering mosques and several businesses closed for a week in the Iranian capital.
According to the Tasnim news agency, Anoushiravan Mohseni Bandpey, the governor, said the measures would apply to mosques and women’s beauty salons, gyms, swimming pools, cinemas and coffee shops.
The development comes after Iran has been seeing a surge in COVID-19 infections and deaths in recent weeks, including record numbers of deaths so far in the pandemic for the Middle Eastern country.
Health Ministry spokesperson Sima Sadat Lari says 179 more people died in Iran from the virus on Monday, bringing the country’s confirmed death toll to 13,211.
She says there were 2,521 new confirmed cases on Monday, more than half of which were hospitalized, bringing the overall number of infections to 262,173.
Iran is the regional hotspot for COVID-19, with the highest number of infections and deaths from the virus.
VIENNA — Austria is expanding a list of countries with banned flights to include six nations in the western Balkans, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova and Egypt.
Austria currently bans flights from eight countries and one region of Italy. The Austria Press Agency reported that only the latter — Lombardy, the Italian region worst-hit by the coronavirus pandemic — is being removed from the list starting on Thursday.
The health ministry added 10 new countries in light of high coronavirus infection levels and kept the eight that were already on the list: Belarus, China, Britain, Iran, Portugal, Russia, Sweden and Ukraine. There are exceptions for flights bringing in freight, repatriated Austrians, medical caregivers or agricultural workers.
JOHANNESBURG — Africa’s coronavirus caseload has climbed above 600,000 as the pandemic on the 54-nation continent continues to pick up speed.
Africa surpassed the half-million case mark less than a week ago. The continent now has more than 610,000 confirmed cases. South Africa has the most cases on the continent, with more than 287,000.
South Africa’s public hospitals are already filling up, and the government on Sunday night reimposed a ban on alcohol sales to help free up hospital beds. The return of alcohol sales on June 1 was blamed for a surge in emergency admissions and an increase in the number of women and children killed.
Other countries struggling with shortages of medical equipment and personnel include Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, which has more than 33,000 cases.
RAYONG, Thailand — The authorities in Thailand are suggesting almost 1,900 people quarantine themselves and get tested for the coronavirus after a breakdown in screening allowed two foreigners who tested positive for the disease to pose a risk to public health.
The agency coordinating Thailand’s coronavirus response also announced it was rolling back regulations for admitting foreign visitors to tighten up procedures.
Taweesilp Visanuyothin, spokesman for the COVID-19 center, said the agency was suggesting that 1,882 people whom a contact tracing app indicated may have crossed paths with an infected member of a visiting Egyptian military team self-isolate for 14 days and get themselves tested as soon as possible. Seven people already known to have had direct contact have already been quarantined.
Officials in the eastern province of Rayong closed several schools and a mall, sealed off part of the hotel where the Egyptians had stayed and gave free coronavirus tests for people who feared they may have had contact with the infected man.
The second case involved the infected 9-year-old daughter of a foreign diplomat whose family returned from Sudan and stayed in their condominium in Bangkok.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The official opening of the Dutch parliamentary year will happen without the traditional pomp and ceremony in September due to coronavirus restrictions.
The Hague municipality and the defense ministry says King Willem-Alexander’s traditional ride in an ornate horse-drawn carriage from a palace in the city to the parliament won’t happen and appealed to the public not to visit the city on Sept. 15.
Thousands of people usually flock to The Hague to line the route of the monarch’s coach ride to parliament.
The venue of the meeting of both houses of Dutch parliament has been changed from the historic Knights Hall to a church that is large enough to accommodate all 225 lawmakers with social distancing in place.
NEW DELHI — India’s number of coronavirus cases increased by another 28,000 on Tuesday and are fast approaching 1 million.
The 28,498 cases reported in the past 24 hours took the national total to 906,752. Cases have increased by 100,000 in four days.
The Health Ministry also reported another 553 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking the confirmed total to 23,727.
India has largely lifted its nationwide lockdown, but the spread of the virus has prompted several big cities to reimpose partial lockdowns.
The southern city of Pune started a 10-day lockdown Tuesday. Only essentials including milk shops, pharmacies, doctors’ clinics and emergency services will be open.
India is the third worst-affected country in terms of infections, only behind the United States and Brazil.
JOHANNESBURG — South Africa has announced 11,554 new coronavirus cases and is among the world’s 10 biggest outbreaks, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
South Africa now has 287,796 cases with more than a third in Gauteng province, home of a Johannesburg and the capital of Pretoria.
The country is under newly tightened restrictions including a ban on alcohol sales, mandatory face masks in public places and an overnight curfew.
HONOLULU — Hawaii’s governor says he will wait another month to waive a 14-day quarantine requirement for out-of-state travelers who test negative for COVID-19, citing an increasing number of cases locally, “uncontrolled” outbreaks in several U.S. mainland states and a shortage of testing supplies.
The testing plan was scheduled to take effect on Aug. 1. It’s now postponed to Sept. 1.
Many in Hawaii’s business community had been looking forward to the plan making it easier for tourists to visit and potentially boost the economy. The quarantine requirement has practically shut down tourism since it took effect in late March. Hotels have closed and the unemployment rate stands at 22.6%, the second highest in the U.S.
“I know that this increases the burden on businesses here in the islands, especially small businesses. But we do believe that it is time to continue to protect the health and safety of our community,” Gov. David Ige said at a news conference.
Hawaii reported 23 new cases on Monday for a total of 1,243. It has one of the lowest infection rates in the U.S.
BRISBANE, Australia — Australia’s Queensland state is toughening the punishment for those who break coronavirus quarantine rules.
Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles says the current fines for breaking a mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine for some visitors or lying about their whereabouts may not be a sufficient penalty.
The maximum penalty will be a higher fine or up to six months’ imprisonment.
Queensland reopened its borders to all but Victoria state residents two weeks ago. Victoria is the center of Australia’s recent outbreak, adding 270 new infections overnight to its more than 4,000 active cases.
The Victorian city of Melbourne is under a six-week lockdown to try to contain the outbreak.
CAIRO — Yemen’s Houthi rebels are easing a variety of coronavirus restrictions amid a news blackout on the virus’ toll in their territory.
The Houthi Cabinet announced late Monday it was allowing restaurants, wedding halls, public baths, parks and playgrounds to reopen. The statement encouraged people to sanitize regularly and practice social distancing.
Over the past months, the Houthis, who control Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, and much of the war-torn country’s north, have suppressed all information about the virus. They’ve severely punished doctors and journalists who speak out, imposed only loose restrictions and promoted conspiracy theories.
The rebels have acknowledged just four virus cases, leaving aid workers, local health officials and doctors to warn the outbreak was far worse than authorities would admit. Scores of people suffering from COVID-19 symptoms in the Houthi-controlled north have died in recent weeks, overwhelming one of the capital’s largest cemeteries.
The outbreak is crippling a health system already in shambles after five years of brutal war that pits the Iran-allied Houthis against the internationally recognized government, backed by a Saudi-led coalition.
BEIJING — China says the number of people in treatment for COVID-19 in the country has fallen to just 297, with only three new cases of coronarvirus reported, all brought from outside the country.
No new deaths were announced, leaving the total at 4,634 out of 83,605 confirmed cases. Another 115 people are in isolation and being monitored for either being suspected cases or having the disease without showing any symptoms.
Meanwhile, a pair of experts from the World Health Organization were in China on Monday to make arrangements for an investigation into how the global pandemic may have spread after the virus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.