The Latest: S. Korea reports virus numbers trending lower
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 73 new cases of the coronavirus, its fifth straight day of below 100, although officials expressed concern that could rise because of increased travel during a five-day holiday period that ended Sunday.
The figures released by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency Monday brought the national caseload to 24,164, including 422 deaths.
Fifty-one of the new cases were reported from the greater capital area, where health workers have scrambled to stem transmissions tied to various places, including churches, hospitals, schools, restaurants and workplaces. The newest cluster of infections in the region is an army unit in Pocheon, north of capital Seoul, where more than 30 troops have so far tested positive.
The KDCA said nine of the new cases were linked to international arrivals, including passengers from the United States, Poland, Britain, Russia and Uzbekistan.
There’s a possibility that the downward trend in confirmed infections is related to the fewer tests that were conducted during the five-day Chuseok harvest holiday. Health Minister Park Neung-hoo during a virus briefing Monday urged people who experience fever or other symptoms after traveling during the period get tested immediately.
Park said usage of express buses and rail services declined by more than 40% during the holiday break compared to last year as officials pleaded that people stay home to help slow transmissions.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Virus spreads on panel handling U.S. Supreme Court nomination.
— Pope: Market capitalism has failed in pandemic, needs reform.
— South African coffin-maker saw COVID-19 at work and at home.
— South Africa and India have asked the World Trade Organization to waive provisions on intellectual property rights to speed efforts to prevent, treat and contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
— Madrid, Europe’s most critical coronavirus hot spot, is under a partial lockdown, with police controlling travel in and out of the city. Still some flamenco houses reopened, with precautions.
Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
ROME — The Italian government is weighing whether to require masks outdoors nationwide amid a steady, nine-week increase in coronavirus infections.
Already several individual regions have imposed outdoor mask mandates in a bid to curb the rebound in infections. On Sunday, Italy added another 2,578 confirmed cases, far fewer new daily infections than in neighboring France or Spain, but cause for concern in the onetime European epicenter of the pandemic.
Another 18 people died, bringing Italy’s toll to 35,986, the second highest in Europe after Britain.
Health Minister Roberto Speranza told RAI 3 television a national outdoor mask mandate was being considered by the government in a bid to keep infections from spiraling out of control now that schools have reopened. There have been 900 cases tied to schools, and 14 school-based clusters in the last week alone. But health authorities said in their weekly monitoring report that it will still be some time before they know the full effect of schools reopening on the infection curve.
ATHENS, Greece — Greek health authorities announced 229 new coronavirus cases and 4 deaths Sunday.
The total number of cases since the pandemic started is 19,842, with 409 deaths.
There are 82 patients on ventilators.
A health ministry expert said that, while people largely abide by the face mask and social distancing rules during the day, they largely ignore them at nights and this has helped fuel the rise in cases: about 80 percent of new COVID-19 cases have been registered over the past two months.
Government experts say daily new cases must drop before colder weather sets in.
NEW YORK — New York City’s mayor says he has asked the state for permission to close schools and reinstate restrictions on nonessential businesses in several neighborhoods because of a resurgence of the coronavirus.
Shutdowns would happen starting Wednesday in nine zip codes in the city.
Mayor Bill de Blasio says about 300 public and private schools would have to close. Indoor dining, which just resumed a few days ago, would be suspended. Gyms would also close.
De Blasio said the city needed the state to sign off on the restrictions.
Over the past two weeks, the number of new cases of the virus has been rising in pockets of the city.
LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has defended his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, but warned that the country faces a “bumpy” winter ahead.
Britain has Europe’s highest coronavirus death toll, at more than 42,000, and Johnson’s Conservative government is facing criticism from all sides. Opponents say tougher social restrictions are needed to suppress a second pandemic wave, but many in Johnson’s own right-of-center party argue that restrictions must be eased to save the economy.
Johnson told the BBC that the government had to strike a difficult balance and he couldn’t “take a course that could expose us to tens of thousands more deaths in very short order.”
Johnson expressed hope that progress on vaccines and testing would “change the scientific equation” in the next few months, allowing a return to normality.
But he said “it’s going to continue to be bumpy through to Christmas. It may even be bumpy beyond.”
Britain on Saturday reported a record 12,872 new coronavirus infections, by far the highest daily total since the outbreak began, though the figure included a backlog of previously unreported cases.
NEW DELHI — India says it is planning to immunize at least 250 million of its 1.4 billion people by July 2021 after receiving between 400 and 500 million coronavirus vaccine doses.
Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan on Sunday said the government will ensure “equitable access” to the vaccine and is in the process of identifying the high-risk groups that will be the first in line, including health care workers.
India is testing three potential vaccines, including one being developed jointly by the University of Oxford and pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca.
That will be mass produced by India’s Serum Institute, the world’s biggest vaccine producer. The Serum Institute has said it would produce 200 million doses of coronavirus vaccines for developing countries, including India.
India has reported 6.5 million cases and more than 100,000 deaths in the pandemic.
MOSCOW — Coronavirus infections in Russia hit a new record on Sunday, with the government reporting over 10,000 new confirmed cases for the first time since mid-May.
The 10,499 new cases reported on Sunday bring the country’s total to over 1.2 million. Russia currently has the fourth largest caseload in the world and has so far reported over 21,000 deaths.
The Russian authorities insist there are no plans to impose a second lockdown in the country that has lifted most of the virus-related restrictions imposed in the spring. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday another lockdown is currently not being discussed in the government.
At the same time in Moscow, which reported over 3,000 new cases on Sunday in the biggest surge in months, officials have recommended the elderly to self-isolate at home and have extended upcoming school holidays by a week.
WASHINGTON __ President Donald Trump went through a “very concerning” period Friday and faces a “critical” next two days in his fight against COVID-19 at a military hospital, his chief of staff said Saturday — in contrast to a rosier assessment moments earlier by Trump doctors, who took pains not to reveal the president had received supplemental oxygen at the White House before his hospital admission.
Trump remained at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Sunday. He offered his own assessment of his status Saturday evening in a video from his hospital suite, saying he was beginning to feel better and hoped to “be back soon.”
Hours earlier, chief of staff Mark Meadows told reporters, “We’re still not on a clear path yet to a full recovery.” In an update Saturday night, Trump’s chief doctor expressed cautious optimism but added that the president was “not yet out of the woods.”
The changing, and at times contradictory, accounts created a credibility crisis for the White House at a crucial moment. With Trump expected to remain hospitalized several more days and the presidential election looming, his condition is being anxiously watched by Americans.
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Slovakia’s record surge of new confirmed coronavirus cases has not slowed down despite tough restrictive measures, surpassing 800 new daily cases for the first time.
The Health Ministry says the day-to-day increase reached a new record high of 818 on Saturday. The government has reacted to the recent spike by declaring a state of emergency accompanied by strict restrictions.
Prime Minister Igor Matovic call3e on fellow Slovaks on Sunday to avoid any public gatherings and not to organize any family celebrations.
“We’re heading for very difficult days,” Matovic said on Facebook.
Slovakia has reported 13,139 virus infections and 55 deaths, still low numbers compared with other European countries.
JERUSALEM — A member of Israel’s Cabinet has tested positive for the coronavirus as the country remains under lockdown while battling a second wave of infection.
Gila Gamliel, Israel’s environmental protection minister and a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, announced on Twitter Sunday that she had tested positive. She was the fourth minister in Israel’s government to test positive.
The Israeli government imposed a nationwide lockdown on Sept. 18 ahead of the Jewish High Holidays in an effort to rein in a runaway outbreak of the coronavirus. According to Health Ministry figures, Israel has recorded over 264,000 cases and almost 1,700 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — The Navajo Nation, which sprawls across Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, reported 17 new coronavirus cases and no new deaths Saturday.
The total number of deaths related to the virus on the huge reservation remains at 558, and the total number of cases is now 10,421.
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka: Sri Lankan authorities closed schools countrywide and imposed a curfew Sunday in two suburbs in Western Province, after a person tested positive for the coronavirus.
The person was being treated at a hospital for a fever when a coronavirus test came back positive. About 15 hospital staff and 40 co-workers have been put in self-quarantine.
On Sunday, the Education Ministry announced that schools are closed from Oct 5 after the authorities decided to advance the school holidays to Oct. 5 from the scheduled date of Oct. 9.
The curfew imposed on Sunday covers Minuwangoda and Divulapitiya suburbs, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) north of the capital Colombo, from where the patient was reported.
For more than two months, health officials have been saying that they have prevented the community spread of the virus.
The country has reported 3,388 confirmed cases, including 13 deaths. Of the total, 3,254 have recovered.
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia —A very small, limited number of people donning the white terrycloth garment symbolic of the Muslim pilgrimage circled Islam’s holiest site in Mecca after Saudi Arabia lifted coronavirus restrictions that had been in place for months.
The kingdom had taken the rare step of suspending the smaller “umrah” pilgrimage that draws millions year-round from across the world in early March as the coronavirus morphed into a global pandemic.
But as nations begin to ease those restrictions, the Saudi government on Sunday started allowing a maximum of 6,000 pilgrims a day to enter the sprawling Grand Mosque in Mecca. Only Saudi citizens and residents will be permitted to enter the mosque during this first phase of reopening, and each person has up to three hours to complete the pilgrimage.
MELBOURNE, Australia — The premier of Australia’s Victoria state has called on citizens to “stay the course” after large groups flooded beaches and parks at the weekend in defiance of strict lockdown regulations.
Victoria, emerging from a major winter spike in coronavirus cases, relaxed lockdown regulations last weekend but still allowed only five people from up to two households to congregate outside.
Many ignored those regulations on Saturday and crowded parks and beaches, causing Premier Daniel Andrews to remind Victorians not to be selfish and maintain social distancing. Victoria reported only 12 new coronavirus cases and one death Sunday, well down on the peaks of winter.
Andrews said the situation in Victoria is “delicately poised” as the state moves toward further easing of lockdown rules.
“People love to go to the beach when it’s sunny but there’s a global pandemic on,” he said. “Surely, there’s a greater urge to see this thing, to defeat it and to have a normal summer and have a COVID normal Christmas and 2021.”
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 64 new cases of the coronavirus, the fourth straight day its increase came below 100, possibly reflecting the fewer number of tests conducted during one of the biggest holidays of the year.
The figures released by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on Sunday brought the national caseload to 24,091, including 421 deaths.
Thirty-eight of the new cases were reported from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area. Health workers have struggled to track transmissions tied to churches, hospitals, schools and offices. Seventeen of the new cases were linked to international arrivals.