The Latest: Gaza reports first community coronavirus death
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Gaza health officials have reported the first death from COVID-19 since authorities detected community transmission of the coronavirus earlier this week.
A wider outbreak in the blockaded territory, which is home to 2 million Palestinians, could be catastrophic. The health infrastructure has been strained by years of conflict between Israel and Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza.
The Health Ministry says the deceased was a 61-year-old man who had been put on life support and died during his transfer to a special isolation center.
The ministry said nine new local cases were detected Wednesday, raising the total to 15. Authorities have reported more than 100 cases and a fatality since March, but until this week they were all linked to quarantine centers for returning travelers.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK
— COVID-19 lockdowns blocked flu in some places but fall looms
— U.S. crackdown on nonessential border travel causes long waits
— New COVID-19 mandates on health care facilities get pushback in U.S.
— South Korea orders doctors to stop strike amid virus crisis
— Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis says that the pandemic has both ‘’exposed and aggravated’’ social inequalities.
Francis said during his weekly audience Wednesday that disparities show up in the workplace, schools and government programs to address the economic impact of the pandemic.
He underlined that not everyone can work from home; school has been “abruptly interrupted” for some children, but continues for others; and while “some powerful nations can issue money to deal with the crisis,’’ that would mean ‘’mortgaging the future for others.’’
The pope said, “these symptoms of inequality reveal a social illness; it is a virus that comes from a sick economy. It is the fruit of unequal economic growth that disregards fundamental human values.”
NEW DELHI — Indian plans to double coronavirus testing in New Delhi as the Indian capital’s caseload has started rising again, with experts warning against complacency and a resurgence of the outbreak.
State Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said Wednesday that the capital was conducting 20,000 tests every day and the capacity would be increased to 40,000.
New Delhi was the first major hot spot in the country to have successfully reined in the outbreak last month but cases have been climbing recently.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey is re-introducing measures to curtail the spread of the coronavirus after the number of confirmed single-day infections jumped to levels that were previously seen in June.
Civil service employees will again be able to take turns to come into the office and to work remotely from home, according to a presidential circular on “flexible working methods” published in the Official Gazette Wednesday.
Meanwhile, authorities banned large gatherings in the capital Ankara and 13 other provinces worst hit by the outbreak, according to an Interior Ministry. Wedding ceremonies will be limited to just one hour, while people aged 65 and over and children under the age of 15 who are not related to the bride or groom, are barred from attending the ceremonies.
The new restrictions came after Turkey reported 1,502 new cases on Tuesday, the highest since June 15.
LONDON — The University of Cambridge says it hopes to begin trials of a vaccine designed to protect against COVID-19 and other related coronaviruses later this year after receiving 1.9 million pounds ($2.5 million) from the British government.
The university said Wednesday that researchers at DIOSynVax, a company spun off by Cambridge in 2017, developed the vaccine using three-dimensional computer modeling of all known coronaviruses to create synthetic genes that train the immune system to target the disease.
Professor Jonathan Heeney, who heads the university’s laboratory of viral zoonotics, said “ultimately we aim to make a vaccine that will not only protect from SARS-CoV-2, but also other related coronaviruses that may spill over from animals to humans.’’
PARIS — France’s prime minister is urging his compatriots to wear masks more but insists that rising infections across the country are “nothing to panic about” and that it’s time for people to get back to work and school and “cultivating themselves.”
France is now reporting more than 25 positive tests per 100,000 people, up from five a month ago, and neighboring countries are requiring quarantines for visitors from parts or all of France. There has also been a small but steady uptick in virus patients in intensive care, though the situation is far from the crisis levels French hospitals faced in March and April.
Despite the rising infections, Prime Minister Jean Castex insisted on France-Inter radio Wednesday that France needs to return to work and school and avoid “falling into an economic and social crisis that would be much more dangerous than the health crisis.”
He urged a careful return to cultural venues, too, pledging 2 billion euros for the French culture industry to help it survive a plunge in revenues for museums, cinemas and other sites. The money will be part of a 100 billion economic recovery package to be unveiled next week.
MADRID — Faced with a surge of coronavirus infections, the Spanish government will seek to lower from 12 to 6 years old the age for mandatory mask wearing in schools.
In an interview Wednesday with Spain’s Cadena SER radio, Education Minister Isabel Celaá also said that parents who need to stay at home to take care of an infected child will receive compensation or paid medical leave.
Officials at the central and regional level in charge of education and health are meeting on Thursday to negotiate revised measures ahead of the school year opening over the next three weeks.
NEW DELHI — India has reported more than 67,000 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, raising the country’s number of reported infections to 3.2 million with 1.5 million reported infections coming this month alone.
The Health Ministry on Wednesday also reported 1,059 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities from the pandemic to 59,449.
India has been recording more than 60,000 new infections per day for the last two weeks, reaching a peak of 69,652 cases on Aug. 19. New reported infections dropped to around 61,000 on Monday and Tuesday, but picked up again in the past 24 hours.
The ministry said India’s recovery rate was now around 76% with a fatality rate of 1.84%.
Even though the country of nearly 1.4 billion people has been slowly opening up to heal the economy, areas identified as most affected by the virus continue to remain under lockdown.
SEOUL, South Korea — Health officials in South Korea called on thousands of striking doctors to return to work as the country counted its 13th straight day of triple-digit jumps in coronavirus cases.
Health Minister Park Neung-hoo cited the growing virus crisis while issuing back-to-work orders for doctors in Seoul area who had joined physicians in other parts of the country for a three-day strike starting Wednesday to protest government plans to boost the number of medical students. Doctors’ groups say such measures would worsen what’s already a cut-throat market.
South Korea’s Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention reported 320 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 237 from the densely populated Seoul region, which has been the center of a viral resurgence in recent weeks. Health workers have struggled to stem transmissions linked to various places and groups, including churches, schools, restaurants and door-to-door salespeople.
Park’s ministry said more than 2,000 medical facilities nationwide had reported their intentions to close for Wednesday after doctors’ groups, including the Korean Medical Association and the Korean Intern Resident Association, expressed dissatisfaction over their negotiations with government officials.
Park said doctors who refuse to return to work could possibly have their licenses suspended or revoked, or even face a prison term of less than three years.
MEXICO CITY — Mexican officials are expressing concern that the country may have entered a plateau of coronavirus infections after about three weeks of slight declines.
The Health Department said Tuesday there were 4,916 newly confirmed cases, bringing Mexico’s total to 568,621. There were 650 newly confirmed deaths, bring the country’s total to 61,450, the third highest in the world.
The Health Department’s epidemiology director, José Luis Alomía, said “the trend is moving toward what could be a plateau.”
The numbers are considered to be a vast undercount, given Mexico’s extremely low rate of testing. But what has been consistent is the relatively high number of health workers infected, possibly because they are exposed more and are tested at a higher rate.
Since the pandemic began, 97,632 nurses, doctors and other hospital employess have tested positive, equivalent to about 17% of all the country’s cases. A total of 1,320 health workers have died of COVID-19 in Mexico.
BEIJING — China has suspended a flight from Abu Dhabi to Shanghai for a week after passengers on board tested positive for coronavirus.
Etihad flight EY862 was put on hold from Tuesday after five passengers aboard the Aug. 15 flight turned in a positive result in a nucleic acid test, the Civil Aviation Administration of China said on its microblog.
For the 10th consecutive day, China has reported only imported cases of the virus, with another 15 added on Wednesday. China currently has 347 people in treatment for COVID-19, while another 365 people are being monitored in isolation for having tested positive for the virus without showing symptoms.
The country has reported 4,634 deaths among 84,996 cases of COVID-19 since the virus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year before spreading worldwide.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — More California children with special needs will be allowed back in classrooms in small groups under new state guidance released Tuesday.
It applies to K-12 students including those with disabilities, students who are homeless and English language learners, among others. Those students would be allowed back in schools, at day camps and in other settings in groups of no more than 14 youth and two supervising adults.
The rules apply to schools in counties that still aren’t allowed to open for in-person learning because of the coronavirus.
HONOLULU — Hawaii’s most populous island is returning to a stay-at-home order while officials strive to conduct 70,000 COVID-19 tests in two weeks.
Oahu has seen a surge in daily positive cases. The federal government will help officials test 5,000 people daily for two weeks.
During that time, Oahu will be under a stay-at-home order where gyms and dine-in restaurants will be closed. Religious services may continue.
The spike also has included an outbreak at the state’s largest jail. State Sen. Clarence Nishihara is criticizing Gov. David Ige’s administration for failing to widely test inmates swiftly enough.
MELBOURNE, Australia — Australia’s hard-hit Victoria state on Wednesday recorded one of its deadliest days of the pandemic despite new COVID-19 infections continuing to trend down.
The 24 fatalities in the latest 24-hour period is the largest death toll apart from the all-time daily record of 25 set on Aug. 17.
Victoria’s Health Department reported 149 news cases on Wednesday following 148 infections on Tuesday.
Wednesday’s count brought the weekly average to 175 new cases a day, down from 279 in the previous week.