The Latest: Hong Kong offers free testing for all residents
HONG KONG — Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam says the semi-autonomous Chinese city will offer free coronavirus testing for all its 7.5 million residents beginning in two weeks.
Lam says such universal testing will help gauge the level of transmission in the community, find those who may be carrying the virus but not showing symptoms and reassure the public.
She told reporters, “Put simply, anyone in the community who wants to do a test can take the test. We won’t care if they come from high-risk groups or not.”
Lam says tests would be carried out in a manner to avoid lines and maintain social distancing. Lam’s government has already cited such concerns as the reason for postponing elections for the city’s Legislative Council originally scheduled for September in what the opposition camp called a political move.
Hong Kong has been struggling to contain a new outbreak that has seen it adding around 100 new cases per day. The city has registered more than 3,800 cases with 46 deaths.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— India hits 2 million cases as health volunteers strike
— July US jobs report is expected to point to hiring slowdown
— Virus talks on brink of collapse, sides still ‘far apart’
— Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has tested negative for COVID-19 after testing positive earlier in the day before he was to meet with President Donald Trump.
— Africa’s confirmed coronavirus cases have surpassed 1 million, but global health experts tell The Associated Press the true toll is likely several times higher.
— The Trump administration has rescinded its warning to Americans against all international travel because of the coronavirus pandemic.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 — The vaccines alliance GAVI says it has agreed to a deal with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the world’s biggest vaccine producer, India’s Serum Institute, to speed the manufacturing and delivery of up to 100 million doses of coronavirus vaccines to developing countries in 2021.
The collaboration will give upfront capital to the Serum Institute so that once any effective COVID-19 vaccine is licensed, the company can mass produce the shots at scale, as early as the first half of 2021.
In a statement on Friday, GAVI CEO Dr. Seth Berkley said the deal was aimed at making sure rich countries would not be the only ones with access to coronavirus vaccines.
He says, “If only the wealthiest countries in the world are protected, then international trade, commerce and society as a whole will continue to be hit hard as the pandemic continues to rage across the globe.”
Numerous countries including Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and the U.S. have already signed multiple deals with pharmaceuticals for access to COVID-19 vaccines before they have been even licensed. Activists warn that rich countries are essentially hoarding limited vaccine supplies and that few will be left for the developing world.
The Serum Institute says the vaccine candidates from AstraZeneca and Novovax, will be available for about $3 a dose, a price subsidized by investment from partners including the Gates Foundation. GAVI is heading an international plan to buy vaccines for low and middle income countries and is aiming to raise $2 billion for the effort.
BERLIN — Officials in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania have shut down two schools after new cases of coronavirus were confirmed only days after the northeastern German state became the country’s first to resume classes.
The dpa news agency reported Friday that a high school in Ludwigslust was shuttered after a teacher tested positive for the virus and a primary school in Graal-Mueritz was closed after a student was confirmed to have COVID-19.
The sparsely populated state has been Germany’s least affected by the pandemic, with 910 positive tests for COVID-19 and 20 virus-related deaths among its 1.6 million residents.
Schools fully reopened on Monday with no mask or distancing requirements, but with children divided into fixed groups for classes in an effort to compartmentalize possible outbreaks.
The development raises concerns as Germany’s most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia, prepares to send its 2.5 million students back to school next week. It has the country’s strictest guidelines, including a mask requirement at all times in school buildings.
MADRID — A group of 20 leading Spanish experts in public health and epidemiology are urging the government to undertake “an independent and impartial evaluation” of why the coronavirus pandemic has hit Spain so hard.
Spain is the western European country with most COVID-19 cases — 309,855, Johns Hopkins University figures show.
The Spanish scientists said in a letter published in the Lancet medical journal Friday that the government should appoint a panel of Spanish and foreign experts to evaluate what has happened.
They said potential explanations include lack of pandemic preparedness, a slow official response, an aging population and funding cuts in the public health system.
GENEVA — The Swiss federal government has struck a deal with Moderna to supply Switzerland with 4.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine if the U.S. biotech firm successfully develops one.
The Federal Office of Public Health says the agreement aims “to guarantee Switzerland early access to the vaccine of Moderna” and is one of the first such deals by any government with the company.
An office statement on Thursday says the government wants to ensure that the Swiss population has rapid access to a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine. At the same time, it says Switzerland is supporting multilateral projects for the fair distribution of a future vaccine.
The Moderna deal would make it possible to vaccinate 2.25 million people, because expectations are that two doses would be needed, it said.
The Swiss government is also in talks with other vaccine companies and has already allocated 300 million Swiss francs (nearly $330 million) for purchases of COVID-19 vaccine. It did not specify the value of the Moderna deal.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The number of people on a Norwegian cruise ship who have tested positive for the coronavirus has risen to 62.
Following the outbreak on the MS Roald Amundsen, the ship’s owner halted all cruises on Monday and Norway closed its ports to cruise ships for two weeks.
The Norwegian Institute of Public Health said that during its two journeys last month, a total of 41 crew members and 21 passengers have tested positive. All the infected passengers are registered as living in Norway.
The cruise liner often acts like a local ferry, traveling from port to port along Norway’s west coast. Some passengers disembarked along the route and authorities fear they may have spread the virus to local communities.
Norwegian broadcaster NRK said Friday that Bent Martini, the ship owner Hurtigruten’s chief operating officer who was traveling on the infected ship when it docked in Tromsoe, had been temporarily discharged. It was not clear whether he tested positive.
PARIS — New foreign trade figures released by France for the first half of 2020 reveal the economic devastation the coronavirus pandemic has wreaked on the eurozone’s second economy.
French exports of goods are down by 21.5% compared to the first half of 2019. It is a drop greater than that recorded in the first half of 2009, at the height of the Great Recession. It’s only partially offset by a decline in imports.
Foreign Trade Minister Franck Riester said that “these figures are unfortunately not a surprise, as the scale of the crisis we are going through is exceptional.”
France also experienced a dramatic clump in its goods trade deficit to minus 34.0 billion euros (minus $40.2 billion) from minus 29.0 billion euros ($34.3 billion) in the first half of 2019.
ISLAMABAD __ Pakistan’s daily infection rate has stayed under 1,000 for more than three weeks, occasionally dropping to 300 and prompting the government to further ease restrictions with restaurants, parks and even gyms opening next week.
On Friday, Pakistan recorded 782 new cases in the last 24 hours and just 17 deaths. In all, Pakistan has reported 282,642 confirmed cases and 6,052 deaths.
The government credits the consistently low numbers for the last few weeks to a strategy of smart lockdowns, where businesses and residential areas were shut and quarantined after recording spikes in cases.
Prime Minister Imran Khan defied his critics to ease lockdowns early on saying he needed to open sectors like the construction industry to provide jobs to the country’s poorest. Since the pandemic hit, Pakistan’s poverty rate has increased from 30% to 40% of the country’s 220 million people.
UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations’ counterterrorism chief says a 350% increase in phishing websites was reported in the first quarter of the year and many of them targeted hospitals and health care systems, hindering their response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Vladimir Voronkov told the U.N. Security Council on Thursday that the upsurge in phishing sites was part of “a significant rise in cybercrime in recent months.” He said global experts don’t yet fully understand “the impact and consequences of the pandemic on global peace and security, and more specifically on organized crime and terrorism.”
Voronkov also warned that extremists are taking advantage of the disruption and economic hardship brought by the pandemic to spread fear and division while trying to recruit followers.
MELBOURNE, Australia — The chief health officer for Australia’s Victoria state says the coronavirus infection rate in the hard-hit state has been “relatively flat” in the past week.
Victoria registered 450 newly confirmed cases and 11 deaths Friday. The 24-hour case load was down from a record 725 infections reported a week earlier. Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton described the latest tally as “reasonable,” adding that “we’re kind of sitting at 400 to 500 cases a day” over the past week.
Melbourne University epidemiologist Tony Blakely says mandatory mask wearing has started curbing the coronavirus spread. He says the infection rate began to plateau at the end of July, a week after Melbourne residents risked fines if they left home without a mask.
A six-week lockdown order took effect Thursday in the city.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine is tweeting that has tested negative for a coronavirus infection after testing positive earlier Thursday before he was to meet with President Donald Trump.
The governor’s office says he took the first test as part of standard protocol before meeting Trump at an airport in Cleveland. He had planned to join the president on a visit to the Whirlpool Corp. plant in northwest Ohio.
DeWine has no symptoms but returned to Columbus before Trump landed.
The governor then returned to his home in Cedarville to quarantine for 14 days, but he tweeted Thursday night that he and his wife, Fran, had tested negative.
BEIJING — China’s capital is reporting its first new case of locally transmitted COVID-19 in a week. State media said Friday the case in Beijing is linked to a recent outbreak in the northern port city of Dalian. Beijing has registered only a few scattered new cases since containing a June outbreak linked to a wholesale food market.
China’s northwestern region of Xinjiang has 26 new cases as authorities continue to fight to curb an outbreak through travel restrictions and the lockdown of some residential areas.
The semi-autonomous city of Hong Kong reports 95 new cases and three additional fatalities reported. The city of 7.5 million people has restricted indoor dining and require faces masks to be worn in all public places.
MEXICO CITY — Mexico has jumped above 50,000 dead from the coronavirus with the latest daily report of 819 newly confirmed deaths.
The report from the Health Department on Thursday brought the country’s accumulated death toll to 50,517. That is the third-highest death toll in the world, behind only the United States and Brazil.
The department also reported 6,590 new confirmed coronavirus cases, putting the accumulated total at 462,690.
Authorities concede the death and case numbers are significant undercounts, in part due to Mexico’s extremely low level of testing. Mexico has performed only about 1,050,000 tests to date, far less than one for every 100 residents.
TOPEKA, Kan. — A spokesman for Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly says the governor will get a coronavirus test because she met with the speaker of the state House of Representatives who tested positive for an infection last month.
House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr. is the highest-ranking Kansas official known to have been infected. He notified fellow House Republicans in a letter after Tuesday’s primary, saying he had been hospitalized for a week in July but is “on the road to recovery.”
Governor’s spokesman Sam Coleman says the governor had no idea Ryckman had tested positive until Thursday. He says the governor will be tested “as soon as we can set it up.”
Ryckman says he tested positive July 13 and he began experiencing symptoms that led to his short hospitalization. He says he no longer was contagious when he attended a public meeting with other legislative leaders and Kelly on July 29.
SAN FRANCISCO — A U.S. federal judge has ordered immigration officials to conduct weekly coronavirus testing for more than 100 men held at a California detention center.
Judge Vince Chhabria in San Francisco issued the temporary restraining order Thursday.
A lawyer tells the San Francisco Chronicle that nearly two dozen inmates and staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 at the Mesa Verde Detention Center in Bakersfield.
The judge says ICE has deliberately avoided universal testing out of concern that the agency would have to implement troublesome safety measures.
The Chronicle says ICE didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
JOHANNESBURG — South Africa is reporting more than 8,300 new confirmed coronavirus cases as the country with the world’s fifth largest caseload is approaching 10,000 deaths.
The new health ministry figures push the total cases on the African continent past the 1 million mark.
South Africa has more than half the virus cases in Africa, with 529,877.
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize this week expressed cautious optimism as the rate of new cases has slowed. But he warned that vigilance must continue “to prevent a renewed surge.”
South Africa’s COVID-19 deaths are now at 9,298, with more than 400 new deaths reported.