The Latest: Slovakia bans most public gatherings amid spike
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Slovakia is imposing further restrictive measures in an effort to curb a recent record surge of coronavirus infections in the country.
Calling the current situation “extraordinary serious,” Prime Minister Igor Matovic says most public gatherings will be banned, starting Thursday.
All family, sports, cultural or religious events are affected by the ban. Soccer matches and other similar competitions will be allowed to take place only if everyone involved tests negative for the coronavirus within 12 hours.
The exceptions include weddings, baptisms and funerals.
Also, all bars, restaurants and clubs must close at 10 p.m.
Similar to the restrictions adopted in the spring, face masks will be mandatory outside if people are closer to one another than 2 meters (yards). The number of people in stores will be limited to one customer per 10 sq. meters (108 sq. feet).
Slovakia faced a spike in day-to-day increases of new COVID-19 cases for several days last week, with a record of 552 set on Friday.
Still, the country has not been as hard hit as most other European countries. Slovakia has had a total of 9,343 people infected, with 44 deaths.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK
— India’s confirmed coronavirus tally reaches 6 million cases
— Nearly 1 million who died of COVID-19 helped scientists better understand disease
— Lockdowns are fading, but Republican outrage isn’t in U.S. campaigns
— UN failures on coronavirus underscore the need for reforms
— University students in Britain are decrying hasty lockdowns that make them feel like prisoners in their dorms, while politicians are debating whether students will be allowed to return home for Christmas.
Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization says it and partners have agreed to a plan to roll out 120 million rapid diagnostic tests for the coronavirus to help lower- and middle-income countries make up ground in a testing gap with richer countries — even if it’s not fully funded yet.
At $5 apiece, the cost of the antigen-based rapid diagnostic test for which WHO issued an emergency-use listing last week, the program initially requires $600 million. It is supposed to get started as early as next month to provide better access in areas where it’s harder to get the PCR tests that are used often in many wealthier nations.
The rapid tests look for antigens, or proteins found on the surface of the virus. They are generally considered less accurate, though much faster, than higher-grade genetic tests, known as PCR tests. Those tests require processing with specialty lab equipment and chemicals. Typically that turnaround takes several days to deliver results to patients.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus hailed the program as “good news” in the fight against COVID-19.
“These tests provide reliable results in approximately 15 to 30 minutes, rather than hours or days, at a lower price with less sophisticated equipment,” he told a news conference in Geneva. “This will enable the expansion of testing, particularly in hard-to-reach areas that do not have lab facilities or enough trained health workers to carry out PCR tests.”
“We have an agreement, we have seed funding and now we need the full amount of funds to buy these tests,” he said, without elaborating.
WARSAW, Poland — Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki says that the experience from the first wave of the coronavirus will help Poland go through the new wave that the nation is seeing with the least possible cost to the economy.
Morawiecki says the focus will be on widest possible access to medication. He says the government wants to avoid another social and economic lockdown like the one that was introduced in March.
Poland is recently seeing a steep rise in coronavirus cases to some 1,500 per day. The number of people put on breathing support has doubled since July, to around 130.
The Health Ministry says it is well prepared for the new wave. Of some 88,600 registered cases, around 2,500 people have died. Out of 6,300 beds for COVID-19 patients, approximately 4,000 remain available along with some 670 respirators.
STOCKHOLM — The Swedish chief epidemiologist best known for being the man behind Sweden’s much debated COVID-19 approach of keeping large parts of the society open says the 1 million virus-related deaths ”is a fairly small number compared to many other diseases that cause death.”
Anders Tegnell of Sweden’s Public Health Agency told Swedish radio on Monday that “we must not be fooled into thinking that this is the only problem we have in the world when it comes to global health.”
While most of Europe locked down their populations early in the pandemic by closing schools, restaurants, fitness centers and even borders, people in Sweden kept enjoying many freedoms.
The milestone of 1 million deaths comes more than nine months into a crisis that has devastated the global economy, tested world leaders’ resolve, pitted science against politics and forced multitudes to change the way they live, learn and work.
HONOLULU — The Hawaii Department of Public Safety has said that 19 inmates tested positive for COVID-19 a day after officials declared that an outbreak in an Oahu jail was under control.
Hawaii Public Radio reported the confirmed infections followed a round of testing at the Oahu Community Correctional Center.
The department says 131 of 150 inmates tested tested negative and that tests on 22 staff members were negative. The department adds that there have been 310 inmates overall at the Oahu jail who have tested positive for the coronavirus and that 93 staff have tested positive.
Officials say mass testing continues at other Hawaii lockups.
TOPEKA, Kan. — Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly has moved a Kansas Statehouse meditation room created by Republicans as a place for prayer and reflection to a less-visible space to create more room for her staff and enable them to follow social distancing.
The new meditation room is on the northwest side of the building’s basement floor, down an out-of-the-way hall. The meditation space was until earlier this month on the Statehouse’s second floor, where Kelly and her staff have their offices.
Kelly spokeswoman Lauren Fitzgerald says the change ensures that the governor’s expanding constituent-services staff can follow social distancing.
But Senate President Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican and frequent Kelly critic, suggested the governor “increased government so much that staffers need to take over a long-standing room for prayer.”
LONDON — British politicians will have to curb their late-night drinking after authorities in Parliament ordered alcohol sales restricted as part of anti-coronavirus measures.
Bars and restaurants in the U.K. have been ordered to shut at 10 p.m. under restrictions imposed last week to curb the spread of COVID-19. But catering facilities in Parliament were exempt under a loophole that allows workplace canteens to keep longer hours.
But after a backlash a parliamentary spokesman clarified Monday that “alcohol will not be sold after 10 p.m. anywhere on the parliamentary estate,” though food can be sold during late-night sessions of Parliament.
Some lawmakers had pointed out that the anomaly would do little for politicians’ public image.
Health Minister Helen Whately said members of Parliament “shouldn’t be sitting round late at night drinking. We have got a job to do when we are there.” Opposition Labour Party legislator Wes Streeting tweeted: “This is ridiculous and makes parliament look ridiculous. This has got to change immediately. We can’t have one rule for parliament and one rule for everyone else.”
PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron has justified new restrictions in the country to limit the spread of the virus as restaurant and bar owners forced to shut down expressed anger at the measures.
The virus situation in French big cities is “serious and worrying,” Macron said in comments reported by government spokesperson Gabriel Attal on Monday.
New restrictions focus on areas where health authorities report a “rapid and significant” spreading of the epidemic, Attal said.
Bars and restaurants in Marseille, France’s second-biggest city, closed on Sunday evening for at least one week, prompting demonstrations against the government order.
Milder restrictions have been ordered in 10 other cities including Paris, with gyms shut down, public gatherings of more than 10 people banned and bars ordered to close at 10 p.m.
Finance minister Bruno Le Maire promised business owners “we will stay by your side and we will keep deploying arrangements to allow you to overcome that extraordinarily difficult moment.”
French authorities have reported a steady increase in new infections and hospitalizations in recent weeks. The country has reported a total of 31,727 virus-related deaths, one of Europe’s highest tolls.
BRUSSELS — The coronavirus has forced at least four senior EU officials into self-isolation in recent days.
EU council president Charles Michel went into quarantine last week and EU commission spokeswoman Dana Spinant said Monday that three members of the college of commissioners also went into self-isolation “by prudence.”
The EU commissioners propose laws and make decisions on the EU’s executive arm’s policies.
Spinant did not identify the three commissioners.
ATHENS, Greece —- Greek authorities say 12 crew members of a Maltese-flagged cruise ship on a Greek island tour with more than 1,500 people on board have tested positive to the coronavirus and have been isolated on board.
The Mein Schiff 6, operated by TUI Cruises, began its trip in Heraklion on the southern Greek island of Crete on Sunday night with 922 passengers and 666 crew members on board. It had been due to sail to Piraeus, the country’s main port near the Greek capital Athens, and later to the western island of Corfu.
Greece’s Shipping Ministry says that sample tests for the coronavirus were carried out on 150 of the crew members and 12 of them were found to be positive. The passengers had undergone coronavirus tests before boarding and were not part of the sample testing.
Those who tested positive for COVID-19 have been isolated on board, and the cruise ship was headed to Piraeus. It was not immediately clear when it would arrive.
YANGON, Myanmar —- Myanmar health authorities have reported 743 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus, bringing the country’s total over the 10,000 mark.
The Health Ministry has announced a total of 10,734 coronavirus cases since March, including 226 deaths. There were 28 new deaths recorded Sunday.
Myanmar’s biggest city, Yangon, tightened lockdown measures last week. Residents cannot travel outside their officially designated wards. Police on Monday were manning checkpoints to ensure that vehicles driving through have valid exemptions such as medical reasons.
Most businesses must have their employees work from home and many factories are closed. There are exemptions to the restrictions for services deemed essential, including banks, petrol stations and food production.
The authorities have said there is a pressing need for increasing the capacity of quarantine centers and hospitals and other COVID-19 treatment facilities, and upgrading hospital staffing and equipment.
MOSCOW — Russian health officials have reported over 8,000 new coronavirus cases for the first time since mid-June.
The 8,135 new confirmed cases brought the country’s total to nearly 1.16 million, the fourth largest caseload in the world. Almost 27% of Monday’s new cases — 2,217 — were registered in Moscow.
The number of daily new cases started to rapidly grow this month in Russia, which had earlier lifted most of the virus-related restrictions and resumed air traffic with several countries.
Officials have repeatedly dismissed rumors of a second lockdown, saying the growth in the autumn was expected and Russia’s health care infrastructure was prepared for it.
Last week Moscow authorities asked the elderly to stay at home starting from Monday, and employers to allow as many people as possible to work from home amid the surge of new cases.
Russia was the first country in the world to approve a vaccine against the virus last month. The move elicited criticism from experts worldwide as the shots have only been tested on a few dozen people and further studies are needed to establish the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness.
BERLIN — The German government has expressed concern about the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the country.
Official figures released Monday show almost 1,192 confirmed infections in the past 24 hours. The actual number is likely to be higher due to reporting delays over the weekend.
Government spokesman Steffen Seiber says “the development of the infection numbers is causing us great concern.” He says that the number of cases in Germany has roughly tripled since June.
While some regions have seen few new cases, others have recorded a sharp jump.
Chancellor Angela Merkel is scheduled to meet Tuesday with the governors of Germany’s 16 states to discuss which measures are needed to cope with the pandemic going into the fall.
The country has managed better than many of its neighbors to contain the spread of the virus and keep the mortality rate low.
According to official figures, there have been 285,332 confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany since the start of the outbreak, and 9,460 deaths.
LONDON — People across England face tough new fines if they fail to self isolate after testing positive for COVID-19.
Starting Monday, those who fail to follow the rules face a 1,000-pound ($1,200) fine, which increases to 10,000 pounds for repeat offenders. The Department of Health and Social Care says those who test positive also will be fined if they knowingly provide false information to contact tracers.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock says the government will “not hesitate” to introduce further measures to restrict the spread of the coronavirus.
The House of Commons on Wednesday may consider an amendment to existing legislation that would give Parliament the right to vote on any new restrictions.
Britain already has Europe’s worst death toll from the pandemic, with about 42,000 confirmed deaths. But those who are calling for tighter restrictions are being challenged by critics who fear further damage to the economy.
In addition to national restrictions, about one-quarter of the U.K.’s 65 million people are living under tighter local restrictions to fight local outbreaks.
BRUSSELS, Belgium — Facing a surge of new coronavirus cases far higher than in other parts of Belgium, Brussels authorities are closing bars early in the EU institutions capital city.
From Monday night, all bars and cafes will have to close between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. while other businesses selling drinks or food will shut down at 10 p.m. In addition, eating at street markets is now forbidden.
According to local media, authorities initially thought about starting the bar curfew at 10 p.m. but the proposal was rejected to support virus-ravaged businesses. According to the Belgian cafes federation, half of the country’s 12,000 bars may not survive the coronavirus crisis.
Since the start of the pandemic, more than 114,000 coronavirus infections have been recorded in hard-hit Belgium — a country of 11.5-million residents — including 9,980 deaths. From Sept. 17-23, 11,934 new cases were diagnosed, with the biggest spike in Brussels, where the positive rate now averages 9.7% compared to 4.7% in the whole of Belgium.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Dubai has announced new restrictions on nightlife to curb a rising tide of coronavirus infections.
Dubai’s tourism authorities have ordered all bars and restaurants in the city-state to stop serving and halt “entertainment activities” at 1 a.m. Hotels will be restricted by law to offering only delivery and room service after 3 a.m.
Authorities urged dining and drinking establishments to adhere to anti-virus protocols or face “consequential procedures and violations,” including shutdowns and huge fines.
The new rules are the first since restaurants and bars were allowed to reopen in July as Dubai, a top travel destination known for its lively nightlife, emerged from lockdown.
The United Arab Emirates has recorded more than 90,600 infections since the pandemic began, including over 400 deaths. Daily new infection rates are now climbing to heights last seen four months ago.
NEW DELHI — India’s confirmed coronavirus tally reached 6 million cases on Monday, keeping the country second to the United States in number of reported cases since the pandemic began.
The Health Ministry on Monday reported 82,170 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, driving the overall tally to 6,074,703. At least 1,039 deaths were also recorded in the same period, taking total fatalities up to 95,542 since the pandemic began.
New infections are in India are currently being reported faster than anywhere else in the world. The world’s second-most populous country is expected to become the pandemic’s worst-hit country in coming weeks, surpassing the U.S., where more than 7 million infections have been reported.
Even as infections mount, India has the highest number of recovered patients in the world. More than 5 million people have recovered from COVID-19 in India and the country’s recovery rate stands at 82%, according to the Health Ministry.
MELBOURNE, Australia — Australia’s coronavirus hot spot Victoria state has recorded its lowest number of new infections in more than three months as the nation’s second-largest city, Melbourne, further eases lockdown restrictions.
The easing of restrictions in Melbourne will allow most children to return to school from mid-October and send more than 125,000 people back to work.
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said only five new cases were recorded in the latest 24-hour period, the lowest case number since June 12. The state also recorded three deaths on Monday.
Melbourne and surrounding parts of rural Victoria were placed under strict lockdown measures on Aug. 2, shuttering schools and non-essential businesses, imposing a nighttime curfew and prohibiting public gatherings.
The 9 p.m.- 5.a.m curfew was lifted from Monday, although residents still cannot travel more than 5 kilometers (3 miles) from home.
Public gatherings of up to five people from a maximum of two households will be allowed.