The Latest: HHS secretary Azar blames China for virus spread
TAIPEI, Taiwan — U.S. Health and Human Service Secretary Alex Azar has redoubled accusations that China failed to adequately warn of the coronavirus after it was first detected in Wuhan.
Azar says China’s ruling Communist Party “had the chance to warn the world and work with the world on battling the virus. But they chose not to, and the costs of that choice mount higher every day.”
The Trump administration has repeatedly accused China of withholding information from the U.N. World Health Organization and the international community as the virus began to take hold.
China denies the charge, saying it communicated information as soon as it had it, although records appear to show new cases weren’t being tabulated during a key meeting of the provincial legislature.
Since then, the U.S. has announced it will withdraw from the WHO.
Azar says Beijing had been lobbying against an investigation into the origins of the virus along with “reforms desperately needed to make WHO a more effective institution.”
Azar, the highest-level U.S. official to visit Taiwan since formal relations between the sides were severed in 1979, praised Taiwan’s response to the coronavirus.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— US skeptical of Russia’s virus vaccine safety measures
— Russia clears virus vaccine despite scientific skepticism
— Global coronavirus cases top 20 million, doubling in 45 days
— Virus surge makes U.S. weak link in global economic recovery
— Kids give their opinion on whether they should go back to school in-person or online. They join parents, teachers, public health experts and President Donald Trump, who have weighed in on the topic.
Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — A Swedish official says schools should expect “a tough fall” as children return next week after the summer break.
Sweden opted for the approach of keeping large parts of the society open in the spring when the coronavirus outbreak ran across Europe. Sweden didn’t close its schools.
Peter Fredriksson, head of the National Agency for Education, says the school challenges remain great, and it “applies to teachers and students.”
He says it is up to the local authorities and schools to work out how to practically plan for the return.
The infection rate is declining in Sweden, which health authorities say is thanks to citizens voluntarily adhering to social distancing. Swedish guidelines say people must “keep a distance” from others in indoor and outdoor locations such as shops, offices and museums. Wearing a mask is also voluntary.
Sweden on Tuesday reported four new deaths, bringing the total confirmed toll to 5,770.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Dutch public health institute reports 4,036 new confirmed coronavirus cases in the last week, an increase of 1,448 from the previous week.
The institute says the confirmed COVID-19 deaths rose by nine to 6,159. The true number of deaths is likely higher because not all people who died of suspected COVID-19 were tested.
The increases come despite local initiatives aimed at reining in infections, which have been climbing since the Dutch government relaxed lockdown measures on July 1. The country’s two most populous cities — Amsterdam and Rotterdam — last week made masks mandatory on busy streets and at markets.
The percentage of people who tested positive also is rising, from 2.3% in the previous week to 3.6% in the last seven days.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says that authorities have found four cases of the coronavirus in one Auckland household from an unknown source, the first cases of local transmission in the country in 102 days.
Ardern said Auckland, the nation’s largest city, will be moved to Alert Level 3 from midday Wednesday, meaning that people will be asked to stay at home and bars and many other businesses will be closed.
She said the rest of the country will be raised to Alert Level 2.
Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said the infections were confirmed after a person in their 50s went to their doctor on Monday with symptoms and was swabbed twice, testing positive both times. Six other people in the person’s household were then tested, with three more positive results.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The confirmed number of coronavirus cases in the world has reached 20 million. That’s according to the tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.
Health officials believe the actual number is much higher, given testing limitations and the fact that as many as 40% of all those who are infected have no symptoms.
The U.S., India and Brazil have together accounted for nearly two-thirds of all cases since the world hit 15 million on July 22.
BEIJING — The number of new community infections reported in China fell to just 13 on Tuesday, while the semi-autonomous city of Hong Kong saw a further decline to 69 new cases.
The mainland also saw 31 new cases brought by Chinese travelers from abroad arriving at eight different provinces and cities. China requires testing and a two-week quarantine of all new arrivals and has barred most foreigners from entering the country.
All new locally transmitted cases were in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, whose main city, Urumqi, has been at the center of the country’s latest major outbreak.
China has reported a total of 4,634 deaths from COVID-19 among 84,712 cases. Hong Kong has been bringing numbers of new cases down since its latest outbreak last month, partly by mandating mask wearing in public settings and stepping-up social distancing restrictions. The territory has reported 4,148 cases and 55 deaths.
LONDON — P&O Cruises, the U.K.’s largest cruise line, has pushed back the restart of its operations by a month until November.
It said this was due to the British government’s decision to advise people to avoid cruises as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Sailings, which had been due to resume on Oct. 15, have been canceled until Nov. 12.
Two trips with longer itineraries due to begin in January — Aurora’s Caribbean and South America Adventure and Arcadia’s World Cruise — have also been suspended.
The industry faces a particularly uncertain future after many passengers tested positive for the virus in the early days of the pandemic in February and March.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Travelers from so-called risk countries will be tested upon arrival in Finland after a large group of people arriving on a plane from North Macedonia over the weekend tested positive for the coronavirus.
Krista Kiuru, Finland’s minister for Family Affairs and Social Services, said late Monday the Nordic country will introduce the mandatory testing as soon as possible.
Whether they will carry out random sampling “or test everyone who comes across borders, is still unclear” she said.
Mika Salminen of Finland’s National Institute for Health and Welfare said a large part of the world’s countries are considered risk countries.
Tests will be made on anyone arriving from a country with more than 8 to 10 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the past 14 days.
On Saturday, a plane from Skopje, North Macedonia, with 157 passengers landed in Turku, western Finland, and 24 turned out positive during voluntary tests, authorities said.
Salminen said that “on the whole the situation is relatively calm in Finland.” The Nordic country has seen a total of 7,601 cases and 333 deaths.
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s planning minister is warning his countrymen that their “victory” against the coronavirus could be reversed if they stop adhering to social distancing rules.
Asad Umar praised people on Tuesday for cooperating with the government since March, when a nationwide lockdown was enforced amid increasing COVID-19 deaths and infections.
His warning comes a day after Pakistan eased almost all restrictions on businesses. Schools have still not been reopened.
It also comes a day after the incoming president of the United Nations General Assembly, Volkan Bozkir, during a visit to Islamabad praised Pakistan for quickly containing the coronavirus, saying the South Asian nation’s handling of the pandemic is an example for others.
Pakistan reported its first confirmed case in February and witnessed a peak in deaths and infections in June. Since then, it has experienced a steady decline in fatalities.
On Tuesday it reported 15 fatalities from the coronavirus in the past 24 hours, raising its total COVID-19-related fatalities to 6,112.
JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia has started the third phase of clinical trials for a COVID-19 vaccine in Bandung, West Java. State-owned company Bio Farma is running the trial in partnership with Chinese coronavirus vaccine developer Sinovac Biotech.
Twenty volunteers were injected Tuesday at Padjadjaran University’s Medical Faculty, with President Joko Widodo attending. The first and second clinical phases were conducted earlier in China.
“We hope that this third clinical trial will be completed in six months. Hopefully we can produce in January, and if production is ready, vaccinate all people in the country,” Widodo said.
A total of 120 volunteers will participate in the initial trial group. The next will be held in the third week and fourth week of this month and involve 144 volunteers. In early September, 408 more volunteers will receive vaccine tests. The injection and monitoring of the trial participants will be conducted until the third week of December.
On Tuesday, Indonesia announced 1,693 new COVID-19 cases, bringing its confirmed total to 128,776. The National Task Force for COVID-19 Mitigation reported that 59 people died in the last 24 hours, taking the death toll to 5,824.
NEW DELHI, India — India reported 53,601 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday as its total confirmed infections near 2.3 million.
The Health Ministry said fatalities reached 45,257 on Tuesday after 871 new deaths were recorded.
India has been posting an average of around 50,000 new cases a day since mid-June.
The Indian Council of Medical Research, India’s top medical research body, said about 25 million tests for the virus have been conducted in the country.
Health experts say the country needs to test more people given its high population. A country of 1.4 billion people, India has been conducting a little less than 18,000 tests per million population.
India has the third-highest caseload in the world after the United States and Brazil. It has the fifth-most deaths but its fatality rate of about 2% is far lower than the top two hardest-hit countries.