The Latest: Israel sends research team on testing to India

JERUSALEM — Israel’s Defense Ministry says it will send a research delegation to India to test out different diagnostic technologies to determine whether someone has been infected by the coronavirus.

The ministry says a delegation led by its Directorate of Defense Research and Development will travel to India in the coming weeks to experiment with different tests that use voice recordings, breathalyzers, isothermal technology and analysis of polyamino acids.

Experts say widespread testing is key to containing the pandemic, but delays in getting results make it difficult for many countries to detect new outbreaks in time to stop them. A test that gives instant results could help countries to more quickly reopen their economies.

The ministry said the delegation to India will also bring “cutting-edge equipment” donated by the government and the private sector, including ventilators.

The ministry says it has already tested “dozens” of diagnostic technologies, some of which have passed initial trials in Israel. It says they must now be tested on a “wide range of patients.”



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— Senate Republicans and the White House have reached tentative agreement for more testing funds in the next COVID-19 relief package.

— The small, neighboring sheikhdoms of Bahrain and Qatar have the world’s highest per capita rates of coronavirus infections. In the two Mideast countries, COVID-19 epidemics initially swept undetected through camps housing healthy and young foreign laborers.


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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Long-haul carrier Emirates now says it will cover the costs of passengers’ coronavirus-related medical expenses in an effort to encourage more travelers to fly on the airline.

In a statement Thursday, Emirates said passengers can claim medical expenses of up to 150,000 euros and quarantine costs of 100 euros per day for 14 days if they are diagnosed with COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.

Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the chairman and CEO of the government-owned airline, said: “We know people are yearning to fly as borders around the world gradually reopen, but they are seeking flexibility and assurances should something unforeseen happen during their travel.”

The airline said the coverage is good for passengers flying until Oct. 30.


JOHANNESBURG — The South African Medical Research Council is reporting a “huge discrepancy” between the country’s confirmed COVID-19 deaths and the number of excess deaths from natural causes.

The new report shows more than 17,000 excess deaths from May 6 to July 14 as compared to data from the past two years.

According to the report, “In the past weeks, the numbers have shown a relentless increase – by the second week of July, there were 59% more deaths from natural causes than would have been expected based on historical data.”

South Africa has reported 5,940 deaths from COVID-19.

The council’s president, Glenda Gray, says the excess deaths could be attributed to COVID-19 and people with HIV and tuberculosis, whose treatments might be suffering as resources are directed toward the pandemic.

South Africans might be staying away from health facilities as fears of the virus spread.


HONG KONG — Hong Kong’s coronavirus infections hit a record high on Thursday with 118 new cases.

Of those, 111 were locally transmitted. Authorities are unable to trace the source of others. Hong Kong has a total of 2,250 confirmed cases and 14 deaths.

To combat the outbreak, the Hong Kong government has made masks compulsory on public transportation and in public indoor areas. Health officials have urged people to stay home as much as possible, especially the elderly and those with underlying conditions.

Social distancing measures have also been tightened in light of the worsening situation, with gatherings of more than four people banned. Businesses such as gyms and amusement parks are also temporarily shuttered, while eateries and restaurants can only operate at a limited capacity.


GENEVA — Swiss authorities have added another 15 countries, including Mexico and Luxembourg, to their list of nations facing increased risk of the coronavirus.

There are now 42 countries on the quarantine list, based on per capita outbreak levels over the last two weeks. Travelers entering Switzerland must undergo a 10-day quarantine.

Under the Swiss rules, arriving passengers must “immediately and directly” go home or to other “suitable accommodation” for 10 days, and contact regional authorities within two days.

Release is permitted only after no symptoms have been shown for the duration. In some cases, officials provide food and other assistance to those under quarantine, but no support for loss of income.

The move effective Thursday adds places like Costa Rica, Kazakhstan, Montenegro, the “Occupied Palestinian Territories” and the United Arab Emirates to the list already including Brazil, Israel, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United States.


PRAGUE — The daily increase of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Czech Republic has surpassed 200 for the second straight day.

The Health Ministry says the number of infected reached 247 on Wednesday, the biggest increase since June 28. One of the latest clusters appeared in Prague where 76 people have been infected in a nightclub.

Health Minister Adam Vojtech says the government will discuss a possible return to some nationwide restrictions but didn’t give any details.

The Czech Republic has 14,570 confirmed cases and 364 deaths.


TOKYO — Tokyo has confirmed a record 366 new coronavirus cases, as Japan started a four-day weekend with many people traveling on a tourism promotion campaign despite concerns it may further spread the virus.

Tokyo’s numbers had fallen in late May after a pandemic state of emergency ended, but infections have made a steady climb since late June. The number has tripled in the first three weeks of July. Tokyo now has 10,420 confirmed cases and 327 deaths.

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike asked residents to stay home as much as possible during the long weekend and avoid non-essential out-of-town trips. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s “Go To” tourism promotion campaign that excludes Tokyo for now.

Tokyo, which had allocated 1,000 beds for coronavirus patients, has asked hospitals to secure up to 2,800 more. Koike says the city is in the process of securing hotel rooms for mildly sick patients.


BERLIN — A German official says authorities have linked more than 2,000 coronavirus infections to an outbreak at a slaughterhouse last month that led to a partial lockdown in two western counties.

Regional authorities restored some coronavirus restrictions in the Guetersloh and Warendorf areas in late June after more than 1,400 people at the Toennies slaughterhouse in Rheda-Wiedenbrueck tested positive for the virus.

North Rhine-Westphalia state’s health minister, Karl-Josef Laumann, told Thursday’s edition of the daily Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung that authorities now link 2,119 cases to the Toennies outbreak. He says a link is possible in another 67 cases.

The partial lockdown has since been lifted and the slaughterhouse reopened, with improved hygiene precautions.


BAGHDAD — Iraq opened its airports to commercial flights following months of lockdown as part of the government’s plan to ease restrictions despite record numbers of coronavirus cases expected to exceed 100,000 this week.

Flights to Beirut and Cairo were scheduled to take off Thursday.

Iraq’s Health Ministry reported 2,700 new cases over a 24-hour period on Wednesday, bringing the country’s total to 99,865 cases. More than 4,000 people have died.

Airports were shut in March, along with full-day curfews. Cases have risen exponentially since then and in particular following the Eid holiday in June.

The curfew has been extended many times amid rising case numbers, which has exacerbated a severe economic crisis spurred by falling oil prices and crippled Iraq’s private sector. The curfew will be lifted following the Eid al-Adha holiday one July 30.


JOHANNESBURG — South Africa’s confirmed coronavirus cases have nearly reached 400,000 as the country reports a new daily high of 572 deaths.

South Africa is one of the world’s top five countries in terms of reported virus cases. It makes up more than half of the confirmed cases on the African continent with 394,948. Deaths stand at 5,940.

Public hospitals are struggling as patient numbers climb, and more than 5,000 health workers have been infected.

The struggles by Africa’s most developed country in coping with the pandemic are a worrying sign for other, far less resourced countries across the continent as the spread of infections picks up speed.


NEW DELHI — India has recorded 685 virus deaths in the past 24 hours, as well as 444 previously unreported fatalities, bring the nationwide death toll from the pandemic to 29,861.

The Health Ministry on Thursday also reported a new record surge of 45,720 new coronavirus cases, taking the total tally of confirmed infections to 1,238,635.

Many states in India have started reimposing lockdowns as health authorities struggle to trace transmissions.

Late Wednesday, the Himalayan region of Kashmir announced a five-day complete lockdown in areas that have been categorized as red zones. A two-day complete lockdown also started Thursday in West Bengal state.

India has record the third most virus cases in the world after the United States and Brazil.


MELBOURNE, Australia — Wearing masks became compulsory in Australia’s second-largest city of Melbourne on Thursday as coronavirus hot spot Victoria state reported 403 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases and five deaths.

The daily infection tally for the state was down from a record 484 posted Wednesday.

Much of the spread is thought to come from sick workers who didn’t take time off while they waited for coronavirus test results. The state government announced workers who don’t have sick leave will be eligible for a support payment of 300 Australian dollars while they await test results.

A majority of Melbourne residents appeared to be complying with the new face covering regulation. For the first week of the mask mandate, police will “exercise discretion” in imposing fines.


BEIJING — China continues to see newly confirmed coronavirus cases in its northwestern region of Xinjiang, with 18 reported Thursday.

More than 50 people have been infected in China’s latest outbreak focused on Xinjiang’s regional capital and largest city of Urumqi. City leaders have restricted travel, locked down some communities and ordered widespread testing to contain the spread.

An additional three confirmed cases brought from outside China were reported by the National Health Commission.

China has reported a total of 83,729 cases of COVID-19, and 4,634 deaths.


SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 59 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, following a rise in local transmissions and imported infections.

The figures by South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday brought the national confirmed caseload to 13,938 and 297 deaths.

The agency says 43 of the new cases were in the densely populated Seoul area, which has been at the center of a virus resurgence since late May. Authorities have struggled to trace transmissions and predict infection routes as people increasingly venture out in public. New clusters have been tied to office buildings, churches, live-in facilities and door-to-door salespeople.

Officials say at least 20 cases were imported infections. South Korea mandates tests and enforces two-week quarantines on all people arriving from overseas.


BRASILIA, Brazil — Brazil’s health ministry has reported a record 67,860 confirmed coronavirus cases over the last 24 hours.

The previous record for one day was 54,771, set June 19.

The new high reported Wednesday comes as some regions of the South American nation are partially reopening for business while others that had previously controlled the spread of the virus are seeing increases.

Brazil has confirmed more than 82,700 deaths from COVID-19 and 2.2 million confirmed infections.

Among the infected is President Jair Bolsonaro, who says he still tested positive for the virus this week after the initial announcement on July 7.


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says there is a strong need to reopen schools, despite a surge in coronavirus cases.

He says keeping schools closed will lead to depression, social isolation and a higher dropout rate. However, he adds parents should be able to keep children at home if they fear the coronovirus.

DeSantis says if school districts want to delay opening, or allow teachers to work remotely, they should be allowed to do so.

A Florida teachers union has filed a lawsuit seeking to block what it calls “reckless and unsafe reopening” of public schools for face-to-face instruction.

The governor acknowledged there are worries about returning children to school, but added that “it should also be asked how safe it is to keep schools closed.”


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